Importance of constitutive activity and arrestin-independent mechanisms for intracellular trafficking of the ghrelin receptor

Mol Endocrinol. 2007 Dec;21(12):3100-12. doi: 10.1210/me.2007-0254. Epub 2007 Aug 23.


The ghrelin receptor (GhrelinR) and its related orphan GPR39 each display constitutive signaling, but only GhrelinRs undergo basal internalization. Here we investigate these differences by considering the roles of the C tail receptor domains for constitutive internalization and activity. Furthermore the interaction between phosphorylated receptors and beta-arrestin adaptor proteins has been examined. Replacement of the FLAG-tagged GhrelinR C tail with the equivalent GPR39 domain (GhR-39 chimera) preserved G(q) signaling. However in contrast to the GhrelinR, GhR-39 receptors exhibited no basal and substantially decreased agonist-induced internalization in transiently transfected HEK293 cells. Internalized GhrelinR and GhR-39 were predominantly localized to recycling compartments, identified with transferrin and the monomeric G proteins Rab5 and Rab11. Both the inverse agonist [d-Arg(1), d-Phe(5), d-Trp(7,9), Leu(11)] substance P and a naturally occurring mutant GhrelinR (A204E) with eliminated constitutive activity inhibited basal GhrelinR internalization. Surprisingly, we found that noninternalizing GPR39 was highly phosphorylated and that basal and agonist-induced phosphorylation of the GhR-39 chimera was elevated compared with GhrelinRs. Moreover, basal GhrelinR endocytosis occurred without significant phosphorylation, and it was not prevented by cotransfection of a dominant-negative beta-arrestin1(319-418) fragment or by expression in beta-arrestin1/2 double-knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts. In contrast, agonist-stimulated GhrelinRs recruited the clathrin adaptor green fluorescent protein-tagged beta-arrestin2 to endosomes, coincident with increased receptor phosphorylation. Thus, GhrelinR internalization to recycling compartments depends on C-terminal motifs and constitutive activity, but the high levels of GPR39 phosphorylation, and of the GhR-39 chimera, are not sufficient to drive endocytosis. In addition, basal GhrelinR internalization occurs independently of beta-arrestins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arrestin / genetics
  • Arrestin / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Inositol Phosphates / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • rab5 GTP-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • rab5 GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Arrestin
  • GPR39 protein, human
  • Inositol Phosphates
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • rab11 protein
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rab5 GTP-Binding Proteins