[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Bioactive peptides have evolved to optimally fulfill specific biological functions -- a fact which has long attracted attention for their use as therapeutic agents. While there have been some recent commercial successes fostered in part by advances in large-scale peptide synthesis, development of peptides as therapeutic agents has been significantly impeded by their inherent susceptibility to protease degradation in the bloodstream. Here we report that incorporation of specially designed amino acid analogues at the P1' position, directly C-terminal of the enzyme cleavage site, renders peptides, including glucagon-like peptide-1 (7-36) amide (GLP-1) and six other examples, highly resistant to serine protease degradation without significant alteration of their biological activity. We demonstrate the applicability of the method to a variety of proteases, including dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV), dipeptidyl peptidase 8 (DPP8), fibroblast activation protein alpha (FAPα), alpha-lytic protease (αLP), trypsin, and chymotrypsin. In summary, the "P1' modification" represents a simple, general, and highly adaptable method of generating enzymatically stable peptide-based therapeutics.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The study of complex heterodimeric peptide ligands has been hampered by a paucity of pharmacological tools. To facilitate such investigations we have explored the utility of membrane tethered ligands (MTL). Feasibility of this recombinant approach was explored with a focus on Drosophila bursicon, a heterodimeric cystine-knot protein that activates the G protein-couple receptor rickets (rk). Rk/bursicon signaling is an evolutionarily conserved pathway in insects required for wing expansion, cuticle hardening, and melanization during development. We initially engineered two distinct MTL constructs each comprised of a type II transmembrane domain, a peptide linker, and a C-terminal extracellular ligand that corresponded to either the α or β bursicon subunit. Co-expression of the two complementary bursicon MTLs triggered rk mediated signaling in vitro. We were then able to generate functionally active bursicon MTLs in which the two subunits were fused into a single heterodimeric peptide, oriented as either α-β or β-α. Carboxy-terminal deletion of 32 amino acids in the β-α MTL construct resulted in loss of agonist activity. Co-expression of this construct with rk inhibited receptor-mediated signaling by soluble bursicon. We have thus generated membrane-anchored bursicon constructs that can activate or inhibit rk signaling. These probes can be used in future studies to explore the tissue and/or developmental stage-dependent effects of bursicon in the genetically tractable Drosophila model organism. In addition, our success in generating functionally diverse bursicon MTLs offers promise that such technology can be broadly applied to other complex ligands including the family of mammalian cystine-knot proteins.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The hydroxy-carboxylic acid receptor (HCA1) is a G protein-coupled receptor that is highly expressed on adipocytes and considered a potential target for the treatment of dyslipidemia. In the current study, we investigated the pharmacological properties of naturally occurring variants in this receptor (H43Q, A110V, S172L, and D253H). After transient expression of these receptors into human embryonic kidney 293 cells, basal and ligand-induced signaling were assessed using luciferase reporter gene assays. The A110V, S172L, and D253 variants showed reduced basal activity; the S172L mutant displayed a decrease in potency to the endogenous ligand L-lactate. Both the S172L and D253H variants also showed impaired cell surface expression, which may in part explain the reduced activity of these receptors. The impact of a loss in HCA1 function on lipid accumulation was investigated in the adipocyte cell line, OP9. In these cells, endogenous HCA1 transcript levels rapidly increased and reached maximal levels three days after the addition of differentiation media. Knockdown of HCA1 using siRNA resulted in an increase in lipid accumulation as assessed by quantification of Nile Red staining and thin layer chromatography analysis. Our data suggest that lipid homeostasis may be altered in carriers of selected HCA1 missense variants.
The Journal of Lipid Research 12/2012; 54(3). DOI:10.1194/jlr.M034660 · 4.42 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is a highly polymorphic G protein-coupled receptor, which is known to modulate pigmentation and inflammation. In the current study, we investigated the pharmacological effects of select single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) (V60L, R163Q, and F196L). After transient expression of MC1Rs in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, basal and ligand-induced cAMP signaling and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation were assessed by using luciferase reporter gene assays and Western blot analysis, respectively. All receptor variants showed decreased basal cAMP activity. With the V60L and F196L variants, the decrease in constitutive activity was attributable, at least in part, to a reduction in surface expression. The F196L variant also displayed a significant reduction in potency for both the peptide agonist α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and the small-molecule agonist 1-[1-(3-methyl-L-histidyl-O-methyl-D-tyrosyl)-4-phenyl-4-piperidinyl]-1-butanone (BMS-470539). In MAPK signaling assays, the F196L variant showed decreased phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase levels after stimulation with either α-MSH or BMS-470539. In contrast, the R163Q variant displayed a selective loss of α-MSH-induced MAPK activation; whereas responsiveness to the small-molecule agonist BMS-470539 was preserved. Further assessment of MC1R variants in A549 cells, an in vitro model of inflammation, revealed an enhanced inflammatory response resulting from expression of the F196L variant (versus the wild-type MC1R). This alteration in function was restored by treatment with BMS-470539. Overall, these studies illustrate novel signaling profiles linked to distinct MC1R SNPs. Furthermore, our investigations highlight the potential for small-molecule drugs to rescue the function of MC1R variants that show reduced basal and/or α-MSH stimulated activity.
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 04/2012; 342(2):318-26. DOI:10.1124/jpet.112.194548 · 3.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) and the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptors are considered complementary therapeutic targets for type 2 diabetes. Using recombinant membrane-tethered ligand (MTL) technology, the present study focused on defining optimized modulators of these receptors, as well as exploring how local anchoring influences soluble peptide function.
Serial substitution of residue 7 in membrane-tethered GIP (tGIP) led to a wide range of activities at the GIP receptor, with [G(7)]tGIP showing enhanced efficacy compared to the wild type construct. In contrast, introduction of G(7) into the related ligands, tGLP-1 and tethered exendin-4 (tEXE4), did not affect signaling at the cognate GLP-1 receptor. Both soluble and tethered GIP and GLP-1 were selective activators of their respective receptors. Although soluble EXE4 is highly selective for the GLP-1 receptor, unexpectedly, tethered EXE4 was found to be a potent activator of both the GLP-1 and GIP receptors. Diverging from the pharmacological properties of soluble and tethered GIP, the newly identified GIP-R agonists, (i.e. [G(7)]tGIP and tEXE4) failed to trigger cognate receptor endocytosis. In an attempt to recapitulate the dual agonism observed with tEXE4, we conjugated soluble EXE4 to a lipid moiety. Not only did this soluble peptide activate both the GLP-1 and GIP receptors but, when added to receptor expressing cells, the activity persists despite serial washes.
These findings suggest that conversion of a recombinant MTL to a soluble membrane anchored equivalent offers a means to prolong ligand function, as well as to design agonists that can simultaneously act on more than one therapeutic target.
PLoS ONE 09/2011; 6(9):e24693. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0024693 · 3.23 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) receptor type 1 (MCHR1) is a seven-transmembrane domain protein that modulates orexigenic activity of MCH, the corresponding endogenous peptide agonist. MCH antagonists are being explored as a potential treatment for obesity. In the current study, we examined the pharmacological impact of 11 naturally occurring mutations in the human MCHR1. Wild-type and mutant receptors were transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells. MCHR1-mediated, Gα(i)-dependent signaling was monitored by using luciferase reporter gene assays. Two mutants, R210H and P377S, failed to respond to MCH. Five other variants showed significant alterations in MCH efficacy, ranging from 44 to 142% of the wild-type value. At each of the MCH-responsive mutants, agonist potency and inhibition by (S)-methyl 3-((3-(4-(3-acetamidophenyl)piperidin-1-yl)propyl)carbamoyl)-4-(3,4-difluorophenyl)-6-(methoxymethyl)-2-oxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydropyrimidine-5-carboxylate (SNAP-7941), an established MCHR1 small-molecule antagonist, were similar to wild type. To explore the basis for inactivity of the R210H and P377S mutants, we examined expression levels of these receptors. Assessment by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay revealed that cell surface expression of both nonfunctional receptors was comparable with wild type. Overnight treatment with SNAP-7941, followed by washout of antagonist, enhanced MCH induced signaling by the wild-type receptor and restored MCH responsiveness of the P377S but not the R210H variant. It is of note that the two loss-of-function mutants were identified in markedly underweight individuals, raising the possibility that a lean phenotype may be linked to deficient MCHR1 signaling. Formal association studies with larger cohorts are needed to explore the extent to which signaling-deficient MCHR1 variants influence the maintenance of body weight.
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 12/2010; 335(3):799-806. DOI:10.1124/jpet.110.174029 · 3.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The μ-opioid receptor (MOR) plays an important role in modulating analgesia, feeding behavior, and a range of autonomic functions. In the current study, we investigated the degree to which 13 naturally occurring missense mutations affect the pharmacological properties of the human MOR. After expression of each receptor in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, signaling (Gα(i/o)-mediated) induced by peptide agonists was assessed using luciferase reporter gene assays. Multiple mutants (S66F, S147C, R260H, R265C, R265H, and S268P) show a significant reduction in agonist potency. At the N190K variant, agonist-mediated signaling was essentially absent. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, microscopic analysis, and radioligand binding assays revealed that this mutant shows markedly reduced cell-surface expression, whereas all other receptor variants were expressed at normal levels. Surface expression of the N190K variant could be increased by incubation with the alkaloid agonist buprenorphine or with either naltrexone or naloxone, structurally related MOR antagonists. We were surprised to find that both putative antagonists, despite being inactive at the wild-type MOR, triggered a concentration-dependent increase in N190K receptor-mediated signaling. In contrast, peptidic ligands failed to promote expression or rescue function of the N190K mutant. Subsequent analysis of the N190K variant in an ethnically diverse cohort identified this isoform in a subgroup of African Americans. Taken together, our studies reveal that the N190K mutation leads to severe functional alterations and, in parallel, changes the response to established MOR ligands. The extent to which this mutation results in physiological abnormalities or affects drug sensitivity in selected populations (e.g., those with chronic pain or addiction) remains to be investigated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Substance P (SP) is a proinflammatory mediator implicated in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other inflammatory states. SP acts by stimulating the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1R) on T lymphocytes and other cell types, and regulates these cells in a complex interplay with multiple cytokines. The mechanisms of interaction among these inflammatory mediators are not yet fully understood. Here, we demonstrate that function of the NK-1R, a member of the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily, is modulated by TGF-beta. The latter acts not on a GPCR but via serine-threonine kinase-class receptors. By flow confocal image analysis, we demonstrate that TGF-beta delays SP-induced NK-1R internalization on mucosal T cells isolated from a mouse model of IBD and on granuloma T cells in murine schistosomiasis. Furthermore, luciferase reporter-gene assays revealed that NK-1R stimulation activates the nuclear factor of activated T cell- and activator protein-1-dependent signaling pathways, which are known triggers of effector T-cell cytokine production. TGF-beta markedly increases SP-induced activation of these signaling cascades, suggesting that delayed NK-1R internalization results in enhanced signaling. Providing a link to amplified immune function, SP and TGF-beta, when applied in combination, trigger a strong release of the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma and IL17 from intestinal inflammatory T cells, whereas either agonist alone shows no effect. These observations establish precedent that members of two distinct receptor superfamilies can interact via a previously unrecognized mechanism, and reveal a paradigm of GPCR transregulation that is relevant to IBD and possibly other disease processes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2010; 107(9):4293-8. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0905877107 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The control of glucose metabolism is a complex process, and dysregulation at any level can cause impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. These two defects are well-known characteristics associated with obesity and onset of type 2 diabetes. Here we introduce the N-terminal dipeptidase, DPP2, as a novel regulator of the glucose metabolism. We generated mice with a neurogenin 3 (NGN3)-specific DPP2 knockdown (kd) to explore a possible role of DPP2 in maintaining metabolic homeostasis. These mice spontaneously developed hyperinsulinemia, glucose intolerance, and insulin resistance by 4 months of age. In addition, we observed an increase in food intake in DPP2 kd mice, which was associated with a significant increase in adipose tissue mass and enhanced liver steatosis but no difference in body weight. In accordance with these findings, the mutant mice had a higher rate of respiratory exchange than the control littermates. This phenotype was exacerbated with age and when challenged with a high-fat diet. We report, for the first time, that DPP2 enzyme activity is essential for preventing hyperinsulinemia and maintaining glucose homeostasis. Interestingly, the phenotype of NGN3-DPP2 kd mice is opposite that of DPP4 knockout mice with regard to glucose metabolism, namely the former have normal glucagon-like peptide 1 levels but present with glucose intolerance, whereas the latter have increased glucagon-like peptide 1, which is accompanied by augmented glucose tolerance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) are gut-derived incretin hormones that regulate blood glucose levels. In addition to their widely accepted insulinotropic role, there is evidence that GLP-1 modulates feeding behavior and GIP regulates lipid metabolism, thereby promoting postprandial fat deposition. In this study, we investigated whether naturally occurring polymorphisms in the GLP-1 receptor (GLP-1R) and the GIP receptor (GIP-R) affect the pharmacological properties of these proteins. After transient expression of the receptors in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, basal and ligand-induced cAMP production were assessed by use of luciferase reporter gene assays. Our data reveal that the wild-type GIP-R displays a considerable degree of ligand-independent activity. In comparison, the GIP-R variants C46S, G198C, R316L, and E354Q show a marked decrease in basal signaling that may, at least in part, be explained by reduced cell surface expression. When stimulated with GIP, the C46S and R316L mutants display significantly reduced potency (>1000 and 25- fold, respectively) compared with wild type. Complementary competition binding assays further demonstrate that the C46S variant fails to bind radio-iodinated GIP, whereas all other GIP-R mutants maintain normal ligand affinity. In contrast to the GIP-R, the wild-type GLP-1R lacks constitutive activity. Furthermore, none of the 10 GLP-1R missense mutations showed an alteration in pharmacological properties versus wild type. The extent to which abnormalities in GIP-R function may lead to physiological changes or affect drug sensitivity in selected populations (e.g., obese, diabetic individuals) remains to be further investigated.
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 10/2009; 332(1):274-80. DOI:10.1124/jpet.109.160531 · 3.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Class B1 (secretin family) G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) modulate a wide range of physiological functions, including glucose homeostasis, feeding behavior, fat deposition, bone remodeling, and vascular contractility. Endogenous peptide ligands for these GPCRs are of intermediate length (27-44 aa) and include receptor affinity (C-terminal) as well as receptor activation (N-terminal) domains. We have developed a technology in which a peptide ligand tethered to the cell membrane selectively modulates corresponding class B1 GPCR-mediated signaling. The engineered cDNA constructs encode a single protein composed of (i) a transmembrane domain (TMD) with an intracellular C terminus, (ii) a poly(asparagine-glycine) linker extending from the TMD into the extracellular space, and (iii) a class B1 receptor ligand positioned at the N terminus. We demonstrate that membrane-tethered peptides, like corresponding soluble ligands, trigger dose-dependent receptor activation. The broad applicability of this approach is illustrated by experiments using tethered versions of 7 mammalian endogenous class B1 GPCR agonists. In parallel, we carried out mutational studies focused primarily on incretin ligands of the glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor. These experiments suggest that tethered ligand activity is conferred in large part by the N-terminal domain of the peptide hormone. Follow-up studies revealed that interconversion of tethered agonists and antagonists can be achieved with the introduction of selected point mutations. Such complementary receptor modulators provide important new tools for probing receptor structure-function relationships as well as for future studies aimed at dissecting the tissue-specific biological role of a GPCR in vivo (e.g., in the brain vs. in the periphery).
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2009; 106(19):8049-54. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0900149106 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The relative simplicity and high specificity of peptide therapeutics has fueled recent interest. However, peptide and protein drugs generally require injection and suffer from low metabolic stability. We report here the design, synthesis, and characterization of fluorinated analogues of the gut hormone peptide, GLP-1. Overall, fluorinated GLP-1 analogues displayed higher proteolytic stability with simultaneous retention of biological activity (efficacy). Fluorinated amino acids are useful for engineering peptide drug candidates and probing ligand-receptor interactions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To elucidate the receptor-bound conformation of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a series of conformationally constrained GLP-1 analogues were synthesized by introducing lactam bridges between Lys(i) and Glu(i)(+4) to form alpha-helices at various positions. The activity and affinity of these analogues to GLP-1 receptors suggested that the receptor-bound conformation comprises two alpha-helical segments between residues 11-21 and 23-34. It is notable that the N-terminal alpha-helix is extended to Thr(11), and that Gly(22) plays a pivotal role in arranging the two alpha-helices. Based on these findings, a highly potent bicyclic GLP-1 analogue was synthesized which is the most conformationally constrained GLP-1 analogue reported to date.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Drugs targeting dopamine receptors have been the focus of much research over the past 30 years, in large part because of their role in treating multiple pathological conditions including Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, Tourette's syndrome, and hyperprolactinemia. Missense mutations in G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can alter basal and/or ligand-induced signaling, which in turn can affect individuals' susceptibility to disease and/or response to therapeutics. To date, five coding variants in the human D1 receptor (hD1R; T37P, T37R, R50S, S199A, and A229T) and three in the human D2 receptor (hD2R; P310S, S311C, and T351A) have been reported in the NCBI single nucleotide polymorphism database. We utilized site-directed mutagenesis to generate cDNAs encoding these receptor isoforms. After expression in either HEK293 or neuronal GT1 cells, basal and ligand-induced signaling of each of these receptors was determined and compared to wild type. In addition, we investigated expression levels of each recombinant receptor and the effect of inverse agonist administration. Our data demonstrate that naturally occurring amino acid substitutions in the hD1R can lead to alterations in expression levels as well as in basal and ligand-induced signaling. The potency and efficacy of dopamine, synthetic agonists (i.e., fenoldopam, SKF-38393, SKF-82958, and SCH23390), and inverse agonists [i.e., flupenthixol and (+)butaclamol] were reduced at selected hD1R variants. Furthermore, inverse agonist induced effects on expression levels were sensitive to selected amino acid substitutions. In contrast to the hD1R variants, hD2R polymorphisms did not affect ligand function or receptor expression. The observation that the hD1R mutations induce significant alterations in pharmacologic properties may have implications both for disease susceptibility and/or therapeutic response to dopaminergic ligands.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR) plays an important role in regulating food intake and energy homeostasis. In this study, we compared the pharmacological properties of four reported variants of the human GHSR (I134T, V160M, A204E, and F279L) with those of the wild-type receptor. Corresponding recombinant receptors were transiently expressed in either human embryonic kidney 293 or COS-7 cells. Basal as well as ligand-induced signaling was assessed by luciferase reporter gene assays and measurement of inositol phosphate production. In addition, receptor expression levels were monitored by whole-cell enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Ligand-independent signaling of the wild-type GHSR is significantly reduced with introduction of either the V160M or F279L substitutions, whereas basal activity of the A204E mutant is not detectable. Ghrelin potency is markedly increased at the V160M mutant, whereas the I134T variant is unresponsive to this endogenous agonist. In contrast, the I134T mutant responds to a known GHSR inverse agonist, [D-Arg(1), D-Phe(5), D-Trp(7,9), Leu(11)]-substance P (SP-analog), albeit with reduced efficacy. Activity of the SP-analog at the V160M and F279L mutants is comparable to the wild type (WT) value. The overall expression level of each of the four GHSR variants is reduced relative to WT; however, the ratio between the intracellular and plasma membrane receptor density remains comparable. Treatment with the SP-analog significantly increases cell surface expression of each receptor with the exception of the A204E variant. Taken together, our studies reveal that naturally occurring GHSR mutations affect a wide range of pharmacologic properties. The physiological impact of these alterations within selected populations (e.g., obese, lean individuals) as well as the pharmacogenomic consequences of corresponding mutations remain to be further investigated.
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 10/2007; 322(3):1036-43. DOI:10.1124/jpet.107.123141 · 3.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The human dopamine 2 receptor (hD2R) modulates locomotor activity, hormone secretion, and neuropsychiatric function. Current knowledge of the hD2R structure is in large part derived from mutagenesis studies and molecular pharmacologic analysis together with homology modeling using bovine rhodopsin as a template. In this study, we utilized comparison of the Drosophila D2-like receptor (DD2R) with the hD2R as a novel approach for identifying candidate amino acids that are determinants of ligand potency and/or efficacy. We focused our studies on four dopaminergic ligands that are used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease: bromocriptine, pergolide, piribedil, and ropinirole. All four ligands are potent agonists at the wild-type hD2R, whereas only bromocriptine shows comparable function at the DD2R. We performed site-directed mutagenesis to replace hD2R amino acids (modeled to project into the ligand binding pocket) with corresponding fly residues, and vice versa. Substitution of three amino acids in the hD2R with the homologous DD2R residues (V91A, C118S, and L170I) led to a pronounced loss of pergolide potency and efficacy. A converse triple amino acid substitution of human residues into the fly receptor (DD2R-A133V/S160C/I211L) markedly enhanced pergolide efficacy and potency at the mutant DD2R. The same substitutions also converted piribedil and ropinirole, which lacked appreciable activity on the DD2R, to partial agonists. These findings show the important role of these three residues in drug-receptor interactions. Our study illustrates that comparison of a mammalian receptor with an invertebrate homolog complements previously described strategies for defining G protein-coupled receptor structure-function relationships.
Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 05/2007; 321(1):298-307. DOI:10.1124/jpet.106.116384 · 3.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The GABA receptor (GABABR) is a class C G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that functions as an obligate heterodimer, composed of two heptahelical subunits, GABABR subunit 1 (R1) and GABABR subunit 2 (R2). In this study, we generated and pharmacologically characterized constitutively active GABABR mutants as novel tools to explore the molecular mechanisms underlying receptor function. A single amino acid substitution, T290K, in the R1 agonist binding domain results in ligand-independent signaling when this mutant subunit is coexpressed with wild-type R2. Introduction of a Y690V mutation in the putative G protein-coupling domain of R2 is sufficient to confer moderate constitutive activity when this subunit is expressed alone. Activity of the Y690V mutant can be markedly enhanced with coexpression of wild-type R1. Coexpression of both mutant subunits (R1-T290K and R2-Y690K) leads to a further increase in basal signaling. Potencies of the full agonists R-(+)-beta-(aminomethyl)-4-chlorobenzenepropanoic acid hydrochloride (baclofen) and GABA are increased at the constitutively active versus the corresponding wild-type receptors. The mutant GABABR variants provided a sensitive probe enabling detection of inverse or partial agonist activity of molecules previously considered neutral antagonists. Our studies using constitutively active isoforms provide independent support for a model of GABABR function that takes into account 1) ligand binding by R1, 2) signal transduction by R2, and 3) modulation of R2-induced function by R1. Furthermore, we demonstrate that certain hallmark features of constitutive activity as originally established with class A GPCRs (e.g., enhanced agonist potency and affinity), are more generally applicable, as suggested by our finding with a class C heterodimeric receptor.