Autoregulation of GPCR signalling through the third intracellular loop

Nature. 2023 Mar;615(7953):734-741. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-05789-z. Epub 2023 Mar 8.


The third intracellular loop (ICL3) of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) fold is important for the signal transduction process downstream of receptor activation1-3. Despite this, the lack of a defined structure of ICL3, combined with its high sequence divergence among GPCRs, complicates characterization of its involvement in receptor signalling4. Previous studies focusing on the β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) suggest that ICL3 is involved in the structural process of receptor activation and signalling5-7. Here we derive mechanistic insights into the role of ICL3 in β2AR signalling, observing that ICL3 autoregulates receptor activity through a dynamic conformational equilibrium between states that block or expose the receptor's G protein-binding site. We demonstrate the importance of this equilibrium for receptor pharmacology, showing that G protein-mimetic effectors bias the exposed states of ICL3 to allosterically activate the receptor. Our findings additionally reveal that ICL3 tunes signalling specificity by inhibiting receptor coupling to G protein subtypes that weakly couple to the receptor. Despite the sequence diversity of ICL3, we demonstrate that this negative G protein-selection mechanism through ICL3 extends to GPCRs across the superfamily, expanding the range of known mechanisms by which receptors mediate G protein subtype selective signalling. Furthermore, our collective findings suggest ICL3 as an allosteric site for receptor- and signalling pathway-specific ligands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Site
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2* / chemistry
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2
  • Heterotrimeric GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Ligands