The G protein-coupled μ-opioid receptor (μ-OR) mediates the majority of analgesia effects for morphine and other pain relievers. Despite extensive studies of its structure and activation mechanisms, the inherently low maturation efficiency of μ-OR represents a major hurdle to understanding its function. Here we computationally designed μ-OR mutants with altered stability to probe the relationship between cell-surface targeting, signal transduction, and agonist efficacy. The stabilizing mutation T315Y enhanced μ-OR trafficking to the plasma membrane and significantly promoted the morphine-mediated inhibition of downstream signaling. In contrast, the destabilizing mutation R165Y led to intracellular retention of μ-OR and reduced the response to morphine stimulation. These findings suggest that μ-OR stability is an important factor in regulating receptor signaling and provide a viable avenue to improve the efficacy of analgesics.
Keywords: GPCR; maturation; opioid receptor; protein engineering; signal transduction.
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.