Determination of sites of U50,488H-promoted phosphorylation of the mouse κ opioid receptor (KOPR): disconnect between KOPR phosphorylation and internalization

Biochem J. 2016 Feb 15;473(4):497-508. doi: 10.1042/BJ20141471. Epub 2015 Dec 3.


Phosphorylation sites of KOPR (κ opioid receptor) following treatment with the selective agonist U50,488H {(-)(trans)-3,4-dichloro-N-methyl-N-[2-(1-pyrrolidiny)cyclo-hexyl]benzeneacetamide} were identified after affinity purification, SDS/PAGE, in-gel digestion with Glu-C and HPLC-MS/MS. Single- and double-phosphorylated peptides were identified containing phosphorylated Ser(356), Thr(357), Thr(363) and Ser(369) in the C-terminal domain. Antibodies were generated against three phosphopeptides containing pSer(356)/pThr(357), pThr(363) and pSer(369) respectively, and affinity-purified antibodies were found to be highly specific for phospho-KOPR. U50,488H markedly enhanced staining of the KOPR by pThr(363)-, pSer(369)- and pSer(356)/pThr(357)-specific antibodies in immunoblotting, which was blocked by the selective KOPR antagonist norbinaltorphimine. Ser(369) phosphorylation affected Thr(363) phosphorylation and vice versa, and Thr(363) or Ser(369) phosphorylation was important for Ser(356)/Thr(357) phosphorylation, revealing a phosphorylation hierarchy. U50,488H, but not etorphine, promoted robust KOPR internalization, although both were full agonists. U50,488H induced higher degrees of phosphorylation than etorphine at Ser(356)/Thr(357), Thr(363) and Ser(369) as determined by immunoblotting. Using SILAC (stable isotope labelling by amino acids in cell culture) and HPLC-MS/MS, we found that, compared with control (C), U50,488H (U) and etorphine (E) KOPR promoted single phosphorylation primarily at Thr(363) and Ser(369) with U/E ratios of 2.5 and 2 respectively. Both induced double phosphorylation at Thr(363)+Ser(369) and Thr(357)+Ser(369) with U/E ratios of 3.3 and 3.4 respectively. Only U50,488H induced triple phosphorylation at Ser(356)+Thr(357)+Ser(369). An unphosphorylated KOPR-(354-372) fragment containing all of the phosphorylation sites was detected with a C/E/U ratio of 1/0.7/0.4, indicating that ∼60% and ∼30% of the mouse KOPR are phosphorylated following U50,488H and etorphine respectively. Thus KOPR internalization requires receptor phosphorylation above a certain threshold, and higher-order KOPR phosphorylation may be disproportionally important.

Keywords: SILAC; endocytosis threshold; phospho-κ opioid receptor-specific antibody; phosphorylation sites; κ opioid receptor.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Endocytosis / drug effects*
  • Etorphine / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / chemistry
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Receptors, Opioid, kappa
  • Etorphine
  • 3,4-Dichloro-N-methyl-N-(2-(1-pyrrolidinyl)-cyclohexyl)-benzeneacetamide, (trans)-Isomer