Receptor selectivity from minimal backbone modification of a polypeptide agonist

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 4;115(49):12383-12388. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1815294115. Epub 2018 Nov 15.


Human parathyroid hormone (PTH) and N-terminal fragments thereof activate two receptors, hPTHR1 and hPTHR2, which share ∼51% sequence similarity. A peptide comprising the first 34 residues of PTH is fully active at both receptors and is used to treat osteoporosis. We have used this system to explore the hypothesis that backbone modification of a promiscuous peptidic agonist can provide novel receptor-selective agonists. We tested this hypothesis by preparing a set of variants of PTH(1-34)-NH2 that contained a single β-amino-acid residue replacement at each of the first eight positions. These homologs, each containing one additional backbone methylene unit relative to PTH(1-34)-NH2 itself, displayed a wide range of potencies in cell-based assays for PTHR1 or PTHR2 activation. The β-scan series allowed us to identify two homologs, each containing two α→β replacements, that were highly selective, one for PTHR1 and the other for PTHR2. These findings suggest that backbone modification of peptides may provide a general strategy for achieving activation selectivity among polypeptide-modulated receptors, and that success requires consideration of both β2- and β3-residues, which differ in terms of side-chain location.

Keywords: GPCR signaling; backbone modification; molecular recognition; subtype-selective agonists; α/β-peptides.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Parathyroid Hormone / chemistry*
  • Peptides / chemical synthesis*
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 1 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 2 / agonists*


  • PTH1R protein, human
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Peptides
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 1
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 2