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There is evidence for ultra-sensitive responses to active compounds at concentrations below picomolar levels by proteins and receptors found in species ranging from bacteria to mammals. We have recently shown that such ultra-sensitivity is also demonstrated by a wide range of prototypical GPCRs, and we have determined the molecular mechanisms behind these responses for three family A GPCRs: the relaxin receptor, RXFP1; the β 2 -adrenoceptor; and the M 3 muscarinic ACh receptor. Interestingly, there are reports of similar ultra-sensitivity by more than 15 human GPCR families, in addition to other human receptors and channels. These occur through a diverse range of signalling pathways and produce modulation of important physiological processes, including neuronal transmission, chemotaxis, gene transcription, protein/ion uptake and secretion, muscle contraction and relaxation, and phagocytosis. Here, we summarise the accumulating evidence of ultra-sensitive receptor signalling to show that this is a common, though currently underappreciated, property of GPCRs.
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