RGS proteins, GRKs, and beta-arrestins modulate G protein-mediated signaling pathways in asthma

Pharmacol Ther. 2021 Jul:223:107818. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2021.107818. Epub 2021 Feb 15.


Asthma is a highly prevalent disorder characterized by chronic lung inflammation and reversible airways obstruction. Pathophysiological features of asthma include episodic and reversible airway narrowing due to increased bronchial smooth muscle shortening in response to external and host-derived mediators, excessive mucus secretion into the airway lumen, and airway remodeling. The aberrant airway smooth muscle (ASM) phenotype observed in asthma manifests as increased sensitivity to contractile mediators (EC50) and an increase in the magnitude of contraction (Emax); collectively these attributes have been termed "airways hyper-responsiveness" (AHR). This defining feature of asthma can be promoted by environmental factors including airborne allergens, viruses, and air pollution and other irritants. AHR reduces airway caliber and obstructs airflow, evoking clinical symptoms such as cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) have a central function in asthma through their impact on ASM and airway inflammation. Many but not all treatments for asthma target GPCRs mediating ASM contraction or relaxation. Here we discuss the roles of specific GPCRs, G proteins, and their associated signaling pathways, in asthma, with an emphasis on endogenous mechanisms of GPCR regulation of ASM tone and lung inflammation including regulators of G-protein signaling (RGS) proteins, G-protein coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), and β-arrestin.

Keywords: Airway smooth muscle; Asthma; GPCR; Remodeling; Signal transduction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma* / metabolism
  • G-Protein-Coupled Receptor Kinases / physiology
  • GTP-Binding Proteins* / physiology
  • Humans
  • RGS Proteins / physiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled* / physiology
  • Signal Transduction* / physiology
  • beta-Arrestins / physiology


  • RGS Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • beta-Arrestins
  • G-Protein-Coupled Receptor Kinases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins