Static and dynamic roles of extracellular loops in G-protein-coupled receptors: a mechanism for sequential binding of thyrotropin-releasing hormone to its receptor

Biophys J. 1998 Mar;74(3):1087-100. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(98)77827-0.


Small ligands generally bind within the seven transmembrane-spanning helices of G-protein-coupled receptors, but their access to the binding pocket through the closely packed loops has not been elucidated. In this work, a model of the extracellular loops of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) receptor (TRHR) was constructed, and molecular dynamics simulations and quasi-harmonic analysis have been performed to study the static and dynamic roles of the extracellular domain. The static analysis based on curvature and electrostatic potential on the surface of TRHR suggests the formation of an initial recognition site between TRH and the surface of its receptor. These results are supported by experimental evidence. A quasi-harmonic analysis of the vibrations of the extracellular loops suggest that the low-frequency motions of the loops will aid the ligand to access its transmembrane binding pocket. We suggest that all small ligands may bind sequentially to the transmembrane pocket by first interacting with the surface binding site and then may be guided into the transmembrane binding pocket by fluctuations in the extracellular loops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • COS Cells
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Computer Simulation
  • Conserved Sequence
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Protein Structure, Secondary*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Software
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / chemistry
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Receptors, Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • GTP-Binding Proteins