G-protein-coupled receptor oligomers: two or more for what? Lessons from mGlu and GABAB receptors

J Physiol. 2009 Nov 15;587(Pt 22):5337-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.179978. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are key players in the precise tuning of intercellullar communication. In the brain, both major neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, act on specific GPCRs [the metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) and GABA(B) receptors] to modulate synaptic transmission. These receptors are encoded by the largest gene family, and have been found to associate into both homo- and hetero-oligomers, which increases the complexity of this cell communication system. Here we show that dimerization is required for mGlu and GABA(B) receptors to function, since the activation process requires a relative movement between the subunits to occur. We will also show that, in contrast to the mGlu receptors, which form strict dimers, the GABA(B) receptors assemble into larger complexes, both in transfected cells and in the brain, resulting in a decreased G-protein coupling efficacy. We propose that GABA(B) receptor oligomerization offers a way to increase the possibility of modulating receptor signalling and activity, allowing the same receptor protein to have specific properties in neurons at different locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dimerization
  • Humans
  • Receptors, GABA-B / chemistry*
  • Receptors, GABA-B / classification
  • Receptors, GABA-B / metabolism
  • Receptors, GABA-B / physiology*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / classification
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / physiology*


  • Receptors, GABA-B
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate