Differences in allosteric communication pipelines in the inactive and active states of a GPCR

Biophys J. 2014 Jul 15;107(2):422-434. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2014.06.015.


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are membrane proteins that allosterically transduce the signal of ligand binding in the extracellular (EC) domain to couple to proteins in the intracellular (IC) domain. However, the complete pathway of allosteric communication from the EC to the IC domain, including the role of individual amino acids in the pathway is not known. Using the correlation in torsion angle movements calculated from microseconds-long molecular-dynamics simulations, we elucidated the allosteric pathways in three different conformational states of β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR): 1), the inverse-agonist-bound inactive state; 2), the agonist-bound intermediate state; and (3), the agonist- and G-protein-bound fully active state. The inactive state is less dynamic compared with the intermediate and active states, showing dense clusters of allosteric pathways (allosteric pipelines) connecting the EC with the IC domain. The allosteric pipelines from the EC domain to the IC domain are weakened in the intermediate state, thus decoupling the EC domain from the IC domain and making the receptor more dynamic compared with the other states. Also, the orthosteric ligand-binding site becomes the initiator region for allosteric communication in the intermediate state. This finding agrees with the paradigm that the nature of the agonist governs the specific signaling state of the receptor. These results provide an understanding of the mechanism of allosteric communication in class A GPCRs. In addition, our analysis shows that mutations that affect the ligand efficacy, but not the binding affinity, are located in the allosteric pipelines. This clarifies the role of such mutations, which has hitherto been unexplained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Allosteric Site*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Humans
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2 / chemistry*


  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2