Signal Transduction by VIP and PACAP Receptors

Biomedicines. 2022 Feb 9;10(2):406. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10020406.


Homeostasis of the human immune system is regulated by many cellular components, including two neuropeptides, VIP and PACAP, primary stimuli for three class B G protein-coupled receptors, VPAC1, VPAC2, and PAC1. Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) regulate intestinal motility and secretion and influence the functioning of the endocrine and immune systems. Inhibition of VIP and PACAP receptors is an emerging concept for new pharmacotherapies for chronic inflammation and cancer, while activation of their receptors provides neuroprotection. A small number of known active compounds for these receptors still impose limitations on their use in therapeutics. Recent cryo-EM structures of VPAC1 and PAC1 receptors in their agonist-bound active state have provided insights regarding their mechanism of activation. Here, we describe major molecular switches of VPAC1, VPAC2, and PAC1 that may act as triggers for receptor activation and compare them with similar non-covalent interactions changing upon activation that were observed for other GPCRs. Interhelical interactions in VIP and PACAP receptors that are important for agonist binding and/or activation provide a molecular basis for the design of novel selective drugs demonstrating anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective effects. The impact of genetic variants of VIP, PACAP, and their receptors on signalling mediated by endogenous agonists is also described. This sequence diversity resulting from gene splicing has a significant impact on agonist selectivity and potency as well as on the signalling properties of VIP and PACAP receptors.

Keywords: G protein-coupled receptors; PAC1; VPAC1; VPAC2; class B; gene co-occurrence; microswitches; neuropeptides; pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide; receptor activation; secretin-like GPCRs; sequence conservation; splice variants; splicing; vasoactive intestinal polypeptide.

Publication types

  • Review