Structural Basis for Apelin Control of the Human Apelin Receptor

Structure. 2017 Jun 6;25(6):858-866.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2017.04.008. Epub 2017 May 18.


Apelin receptor (APJR) is a key regulator of human cardiovascular function and is activated by two different endogenous peptide ligands, apelin and Elabela, each with different isoforms diversified by length and amino acid sequence. Here we report the 2.6-Å resolution crystal structure of human APJR in complex with a designed 17-amino-acid apelin mimetic peptide agonist. The structure reveals that the peptide agonist adopts a lactam constrained curved two-site ligand binding mode. Combined with mutation analysis and molecular dynamics simulations with apelin-13 binding to the wild-type APJR, this structure provides a mechanistic understanding of apelin recognition and binding specificity. Comparison of this structure with that of other peptide receptors suggests that endogenous peptide ligands with a high degree of conformational flexibility may bind and modulate the receptors via a similar two-site binding mechanism.

Keywords: apelin recognition and binding specificity; cardiovascular drug target; designed agonist peptide mimic; human apelin receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine
  • Apelin / chemistry
  • Apelin Receptors / agonists
  • Apelin Receptors / chemistry*
  • Apelin Receptors / genetics
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry
  • Protein Conformation
  • Signal Transduction


  • APLN protein, human
  • APLNR protein, human
  • Apelin
  • Apelin Receptors
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Alanine