The G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest family of receptors in humans and other vertebrates. They are embedded in the cell membrane and are activated by many different signaling molecules. Activation modulates cellular signal transduction pathways and influences many physiological processes. Therefore the GPCRs are important as targets for numerous drugs.
The receptors for NPY (neuropeptide Y) belong to GPCRs of Class A (rhodopsin-like). NPY and its related peptides PYY and PP are involved in the regulation of appetite, blood pressure and many other processes. They share a common structure and interact with the receptors Y1, Y2, Y4 and Y5 in mammals, and, in addition, Y7 and Y8 in amphibians and bony fishes.
This thesis is focused on the human Y2 receptor, known to reduce appetite, by investigating the importance of thirteen amino acid residues for ligand binding. Mutagenesis followed by functional expression and receptor binding was conducted. During the course of this work several new GPCR crystal structures have been resolved, thereby improving the receptor modeling in papers I-III. The major finding is that even though the Y1 and Y2 receptors have evolved from a common ancestor, their points of ligand interaction differ and have thus changed during evolution. In general, the positions investigated resulted in milder changes in the ligands’ affinities for Y2 compared to Y1. These findings were incorporated in the design of new Y1 and Y2 receptor models, leading to improved understanding of how such divergent receptors, sharing only 30 percent sequence identity, can still interact with the same ligands. Notably, several of the mutations introduced in Y2 resulted in increased affinity.
A novel NPY receptor gene named Y2-2 was identified in the genomes of zebrafish and medaka. This brings the number of zebrafish NPY receptors to seven. The binding characteristics of zebrafish Y2-2 differed from zebrafish Y2 mainly in the interaction with NPY13-36 and the antagonist BIIE0246.
In conclusion, these results increase our understanding of ligand interactions with GPCRs and will be useful for refinement of ligand-receptor models for future development of receptor subtype-selective drugs.