Quantitative Super-Resolution Imaging for the Analysis of GPCR Oligomerization

Biomolecules. 2021 Oct 12;11(10):1503. doi: 10.3390/biom11101503.


G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are known to form homo- and hetero- oligomers which are considered critical to modulate their function. However, studying the existence and functional implication of these complexes is not straightforward as controversial results are obtained depending on the method of analysis employed. Here, we use a quantitative single molecule super-resolution imaging technique named qPAINT to quantify complex formation within an example GPCR. qPAINT, based upon DNA-PAINT, takes advantage of the binding kinetics between fluorescently labelled DNA imager strands to complementary DNA docking strands coupled to protein targeting antibodies to quantify the protein copy number in nanoscale dimensions. We demonstrate qPAINT analysis via a novel pipeline to study the oligomerization of the purinergic receptor Y2 (P2Y2), a rhodopsin-like GPCR, highly expressed in the pancreatic cancer cell line AsPC-1, under control, agonistic and antagonistic conditions. Results reveal that whilst the density of P2Y2 receptors remained unchanged, antagonistic conditions displayed reduced percentage of oligomers, and smaller numbers of receptors in complexes. Yet, the oligomeric state of the receptors was not affected by agonist treatment, in line with previous reports. Understanding P2Y2 oligomerization under agonistic and antagonistic conditions will contribute to unravelling P2Y2 mechanistic action and therapeutic targeting.

Keywords: DNA-PAINT microscopy; G-protein coupled receptors; oligomerization; purinergic receptor Y2 (P2Y2); qPAINT; super-resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Multimerization / genetics*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / ultrastructure
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2Y2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2Y2 / ultrastructure
  • Rhodopsin / genetics
  • Rhodopsin / ultrastructure
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2Y2
  • DNA
  • Rhodopsin