G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) mediate a wide range of human physiological functions by transducing extracellular ligand binding events into intracellular responses. GPCRs can activate parallel, independent signaling pathways mediated by G proteins or β-arrestins. Whereas "balanced" agonists activate both pathways equally, "biased" agonists dominantly activate one pathway, which is of interest for designing GPCR-targeting drugs because it may mitigate undesirable side effects. Previous studies demonstrated that β-arrestin activation is associated with transmembrane helix VII (TM VII) of GPCRs. Here, single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy with the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR) in the ligand-free state showed that TM VII spontaneously fluctuates between one inactive and one active-like conformation. The presence of the β-arrestin-biased agonist isoetharine prolongs the dwell time of TM VII in the active-like conformation compared with the balanced agonist formoterol, suggesting that ligands can induce signaling bias by modulating the kinetics of receptor conformational exchange.
Keywords: G-protein-coupled receptor; biased signaling; conformational dynamics; single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy; β(2)-adrenergic receptor.
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