Much evidence indicates that, during activation of seven-transmembrane (7TM) receptors, the intracellular segments of the transmembrane helices (TMs) move apart with large amplitude, rigid body movements of especially TM-VI and TM-VII. In this study, AspIII:08 (Asp113), the anchor point for monoamine binding in TM-III, was used as the starting point to engineer activating metal ion sites between the extracellular segments of the beta2-adrenergic receptor. Cu(II) and Zn(II) alone and in complex with aromatic chelators acted as potent (EC50 decreased to 0.5 microm) and efficacious agonists in sites constructed between positions III:08 (Asp or His), VI:16 (preferentially Cys), and/or VII:06 (preferentially Cys). In molecular models built over the backbone conformation of the inactive rhodopsin structure, the heavy atoms that coordinate the metal ion were located too far away from each other to form high affinity metal ion sites in both the bidentate and potential tridentate settings. This indicates that the residues involved in the main ligand-binding pocket will have to move closer to each other during receptor activation. On the basis of the distance constraints from these activating metal ion sites, we propose a global toggle switch mechanism for 7TM receptor activation in which inward movement of the extracellular segments of especially TM-VI and, to some extent, TM-VII is coupled to the well established outward movement of the intracellular segments of these helices. We suggest that the pivots for these vertical seesaw movements are the highly conserved proline bends of the involved helices.
Keywords: Amino Acid Sequence; Animals; COS Cells; Cattle; Cell Membrane; Cercopithecus aethiops; Copper; Metals; Molecular Conformation; Molecular Sequence Data; Protein Binding; Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2; Rhodopsin; Zinc