Influence of the hinge region and its adjacent domains on binding and signaling patterns of the thyrotropin and follitropin receptor

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 23;9(10):e111570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0111570. eCollection 2014.


Glycoprotein hormone receptors (GPHR) have a large extracellular domain (ECD) divided into the leucine rich repeat (LRR) domain for binding of the glycoprotein hormones and the hinge region (HinR), which connects the LRR domain with the transmembrane domain (TMD). Understanding of the activation mechanism of GPHRs is hindered by the unknown interaction of the ECD with the TMD and the structural changes upon ligand binding responsible for receptor activation. Recently, our group showed that the HinR of the thyrotropin receptor (TSHR) can be replaced by those of the follitropin (FSHR) and lutropin receptor (LHCGR) without effects on surface expression and hTSH signaling. However, differences in binding characteristics for bovine TSH at the various HinRs were obvious. To gain further insights into the interplay between LRR domain, HinR and TMD we generated chimeras between the TSHR and FSHR. Our results obtained by the determination of cell surface expression, ligand binding and G protein activation confirm the similar characteristics of GPHR HinRs but they also demonstrate an involvement of the HinR in ligand selectivity indicated by the observed promiscuity of some chimeras. While the TSHR HinR contributes to specific binding of TSH and its variants, no such contribution is observed for FSH and its analog TR4401 at the HinR of the FSHR. Furthermore, the charge distribution at the poorly characterized LRR domain/HinR transition affected ligand binding and signaling even though this area is not in direct contact with the ligand. In addition our results also demonstrate the importance of the TMD/HinR interface. Especially the combination of the TSHR HinR with the FSHR-TMD resulted in a loss of cell surface expression of the respective chimeras. In conclusion, the HinRs of GPHRs do not only share similar characteristics but also behave as ligand specific structural and functional entities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • COS Cells
  • Cattle
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Separation
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Mutation
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Receptors, FSH / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin / chemistry*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thyrotropin / chemistry


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, FSH
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Thyrotropin
  • Cyclic AMP

Grant support

This work was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Ja 1927/1-2. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.