GPR4, previously proposed as the receptor for sphingosylphosphorylcholine, has recently been identified as the proton-sensing G-protein-coupled receptor coupling to multiple intracellular signaling pathways, including the G(s)-protein/cAMP, G(12/13)-protein/Rho, and G(q)-protein/phospholipase C pathways. In the present study, we examined whether extracellularly located histidine residues of GPR4 sense extracellular protons and, if so, whether a certain histidine residue is critical for coupling to the single or multiple signaling pathway(s). We found that the mutation of histidine residue at 79, 165, or 269 from the N-terminal of GPR4 to phenylalanine shifted the half-maximal effective concentration (EC(50)) of proton-induced signaling activities to the right, including cAMP accumulation, SRE promoter activity reflecting Rho activity, and NFAT promoter activity reflecting phospholipase C signaling activity, without an appreciable change in the maximal activities. These results suggest that the protonation of each one of histidine residues at 79, 165, and 269 in GPR4 may be critical for conformational change of the receptor for coupling to multiple intracellular signaling pathways through G-proteins.
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