GPR40 (FFAR1) - Combined Gs and Gq signaling in vitro is associated with robust incretin secretagogue action ex vivo and in vivo

Mol Metab. 2014 Oct 24;4(1):3-14. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2014.10.002. eCollection 2015 Jan.


Objectives: GPR40 (FFAR1), a clinically proven anti-diabetes target, is a Gq-coupled receptor for long chain fatty acids (LCFA) stimulating insulin secretion directly and mediating a major part of the dietary triglyceride-induced secretion of the incretins GLP-1 and GIP. In phase-II studies the GPR40 agonist TAK-875 decreased blood glucose but surprisingly without stimulating incretins.

Methods and results: Here we find that GPR40 can signal through not only Gq and IP3 but also Gs and cAMP when stimulated with certain agonists such as AM-1638 and AM-5262 in contrast to the endogenous LCFA ligands and agonists such as TAK-875 and AM-837, which only signal through Gq. In competition binding against [3H]AM-1638 and [3H]L358 the Gq + Gs and the Gq-only agonists either competed for or showed positive cooperativity by increasing the binding of the two different radio-ligands, in opposite ways. Nevertheless, both the Gq-only and the Gq + Gs agonists all docked surprisingly well into the binding site for TAK-875 in the X-ray structure of GPR40. In murine intestinal primary cell-cultures the endogenous LCFAs and the Gq-only agonists stimulated GLP-1 secretion with rather poor efficacy as compared with the high efficacy Gq + Gs GPR40 agonists and a prototype GPR119 agonist. Similarly, in fasting both male and female mice the Gq + Gs agonists showed significantly higher efficacy than the Gq-only agonists in respect of increasing plasma GLP-1 and plasma GIP in a GPR40-dependent manner.

Conclusions: It is concluded that stimulation of GPR40 by endogenous LCFAs or by Gq-only synthetic agonists result in a rather limited incretin response, whereas Gq + Gs GPR40 agonists stimulate incretin secretion robustly.

Keywords: Ago-allosteric agonist; Biased signaling; G protein-coupled receptor; Glucagon like peptide 1 (GLP-1); Long chain fatty acids (LCFAs).