Structure of the glucagon receptor in complex with a glucagon analogue

Nature. 2018 Jan 3;553(7686):106-110. doi: 10.1038/nature25153.


Class B G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which consist of an extracellular domain (ECD) and a transmembrane domain (TMD), respond to secretin peptides to play a key part in hormonal homeostasis, and are important therapeutic targets for a variety of diseases. Previous work has suggested that peptide ligands bind to class B GPCRs according to a two-domain binding model, in which the C-terminal region of the peptide targets the ECD and the N-terminal region of the peptide binds to the TMD binding pocket. Recently, three structures of class B GPCRs in complex with peptide ligands have been solved. These structures provide essential insights into peptide ligand recognition by class B GPCRs. However, owing to resolution limitations, the specific molecular interactions for peptide binding to class B GPCRs remain ambiguous. Moreover, these previously solved structures have different ECD conformations relative to the TMD, which introduces questions regarding inter-domain conformational flexibility and the changes required for receptor activation. Here we report the 3.0 Å-resolution crystal structure of the full-length human glucagon receptor (GCGR) in complex with a glucagon analogue and partial agonist, NNC1702. This structure provides molecular details of the interactions between GCGR and the peptide ligand. It reveals a marked change in the relative orientation between the ECD and TMD of GCGR compared to the previously solved structure of the inactive GCGR-NNC0640-mAb1 complex. Notably, the stalk region and the first extracellular loop undergo major conformational changes in secondary structure during peptide binding, forming key interactions with the peptide. We further propose a dual-binding-site trigger model for GCGR activation-which requires conformational changes of the stalk, first extracellular loop and TMD-that extends our understanding of the previously established two-domain peptide-binding model of class B GPCRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Partial Agonism
  • Glucagon / analogs & derivatives*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, Glucagon / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Glucagon / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Glucagon
  • Glucagon