A class of receptors responsible for regulating neuronal function is part of the focus of a recent study by the Prosser and Ernst labs at UofT. Their paper, “Activation of the A2A adenosine G-protein-coupled receptor by conformational selection,” appears in the latest edition of the journal Nature http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature17668.html.
There is a great deal of interest in understanding this broad class of cell signaling receptors called GPCRs (G-Protein-coupled receptors), which are responsible for basic processes such as vision, taste, smell, chemical and hormonal signaling in the brain and whole body, cell homeostasis, and immune defense. 30-40% of current pharmaceuticals target these membrane receptors, which essentially serve as gate-keepers for cell signaling. The new findings allow to design the next generation of GPCR drugs which stabilize specific receptor conformations to exert specific pharmacological effects. This work represents the beginning of several key collaborative projects with the Prosser and Ernst labs, who use NMR, pulsed EPR (DEER spectroscopy) and crystallography to better understand the activation process of GPCRs and interpret pharmacological phenomena in terms of protein structural and dynamic information.