The A189 V inactivating mutation of the human FSH receptor (FSHR) leads to subfertility in men and primary ovarian failure in women. This mutation has previously been associated with intracellular retention of the FSHR and impaired cAMP production. Here, we show that the A189 V FSHR stably expressed in HEK293N cells provoked ERK MAP kinases phosphorylation through β-arrestins, independently of the canonical cAMP/PKA pathway. Interesting, both the A189 V and wild-type (Wt) FSHRs selectively activated cAMP-independent ERK phosphorylation when expressed at low plasma membrane densities. These data indicate that the selective intracellular signalling triggered by the A189 V FSHR resulted from reduced membrane expression rather than by switching receptor coupling. Hence, receptor density at the plasma membrane might control the balance between distinct signal transduction mechanisms. Furthermore, our results help to clarify why mutations of FSHβ are more deleterious to human fertility than the FSHR A189 V mutation which preserves parts of receptor signalling repertoire.
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