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Dynamic States of the Ligand-Free Class A G Protein-Coupled Receptor Extracellular Side

Zhang, Qiansen, Zhou, Mang, Zhao, Lifen, Jiang, Hualiang, Yang, Huaiyu
Biochemistry 2018 v.57 no.32 pp. 4767-4775
G-protein coupled receptors, binding sites, disulfide bonds, drugs, ligands, molecular dynamics, simulation models
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) make up the largest family of drug targets. The second extracellular loop (ECL2) and extracellular end of the third transmembrane helix (TM3) are basic structural elements of the GPCR ligand binding site. Currently, the disulfide bond between the two conserved cysteines in the ECL2 and TM3 is considered to be a basic GPCR structural feature. This disulfide bond has a significant effect on receptor dynamics and ligand binding. Here, molecular dynamics simulations and experimental results show that the two cysteines are distant from one another in the highest-population conformational state of ligand-free class A GPCRs and do not form a disulfide bond, indicating that the dynamics of the GPCR extracellular side are different from our conventional understanding. These surprising dynamics should have important effects on the drug binding process. On the basis of the two distinct ligand-free states, we suggest two kinetic processes for binding of ligands to GPCRs. These results challenge our commonly held beliefs regarding both GPCR structural features and ligand binding.