Differential Roles of Extracellular Histidine Residues of GPR68 for Proton-Sensing and Allosteric Modulation by Divalent Metal Ions

Biochemistry. 2020 Sep 29;59(38):3594-3614. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.0c00576. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


GPR68, an orphan G-protein coupled receptor, senses protons, couples to multiple G-proteins, and is also activated or inhibited by divalent metal ions. It has seven extracellular histidine residues, although it is not clear how these histidine residues play a role in both proton-sensing and metal ion modulation. Here we demonstrate that divalent metal ions are allosteric modulators that can activate or inhibit proton activity in a concentration- and pH-dependent manner. We then show that single histidine mutants have differential and varying degrees of effects on proton-sensing and metal ion modulation. Some histidine residues play dual roles in proton-sensing and metal ion modulation, while others are important in one or the other but not both. Two extracellular disulfide bonds are predicted to constrain histidine residues to be spatially close to each other. Combining histidine mutations leads to reduced proton activity and resistance to metal ion modulation, while breaking the less conserved disulfide bond results in a more severe reduction in proton-sensing over metal modulation. The small-molecule positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) ogerin and lorazepam are not affected by these mutations and remain active at mutants with severely reduced proton activity or are resistant to metal ion modulation. These results suggest GPR68 possesses two independent allosteric modulation systems, one through interaction with divalent metal ions at the extracellular surface and another through small-molecule PAMs in the transmembrane domains. A new GPR68 model is developed to accommodate the findings which could serve as a template for further studies and ligand discovery by virtual ligand docking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation / drug effects*
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Calcium / pharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Histidine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Magnesium / pharmacology*
  • Metals, Heavy / pharmacology*
  • Mutation
  • Protons*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*


  • GPR68 protein, human
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Protons
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Histidine
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium