Conformational specificity of opioid receptors is determined by subcellular location irrespective of agonist

Elife. 2021 May 20;10:e67478. doi: 10.7554/eLife.67478.


The prevailing model for the variety in drug responses is that different drugs stabilize distinct active states of their G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) targets, allowing coupling to different effectors. However, whether the same ligand generates different GPCR active states based on the immediate environment of receptors is not known. Here we address this question using spatially resolved imaging of conformational biosensors that read out distinct active conformations of the δ-opioid receptor (DOR), a physiologically relevant GPCR localized to Golgi and the surface in neuronal cells. We have shown that Golgi and surface pools of DOR both inhibit cAMP, but engage distinct conformational biosensors in response to the same ligand in rat neuroendocrine cells. Further, DOR recruits arrestins on the surface but not on the Golgi. Our results suggest that the local environment determines the active states of receptors for any given drug, allowing GPCRs to couple to different effectors at different subcellular locations.

Keywords: GPCR; cell biology; organelle; rat; signaling; spatial encoding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzamides / pharmacology*
  • Biosensing Techniques
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / drug effects*
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • PC12 Cells
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / agonists*
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / chemistry
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta / metabolism
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • beta-Arrestins / metabolism


  • Benzamides
  • Ligands
  • Piperazines
  • Receptors, Opioid, delta
  • beta-Arrestins
  • 4-(alpha-(4-allyl-2,5-dimethyl-1-piperazinyl)-3-methoxybenzyl)-N,N-diethylbenzamide
  • Cyclic AMP