The cells within the human body continually communicate with one another in order to fulfil their various tasks. For that purpose, they are equipped with sensors with which they receive signals from their environment.
Schematic diagram of the light receptor rhodopsin, a typical GPCR. The ligand (green) can be seen in the interior. The red struts show the stabilizing contacts between the molecular rods that are characteristic of the construction of the GPCR family. The cell membrane is coloured yellow. The part of the picture at the top is outside the cell and that at the bottom is inside it.
Figure: Paul Scherrer Institute/Xavier Deupi
View into the binding pocket of the GPCR rhodopsin with bound ligand (in green). The red lines indicate the contacts that form the universal connector in all GPC receptors to ligands. The cell membrane is shown in yellow. The part of the picture at the top is outside the cell and that at the bottom is inside it.
Figure: Paul Scherrer Institute/Xavier Deupi
Sensors on cell surfaces are known as receptors. Numerous processes taking place within our body – such as sight, smell or taste – are performed by an important family of receptors known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). Other receptors that belong to this group are those that control emotions and those that contribute to our reaction to fear and stress. Researchers at the Paul Scherer Institute, together with colleagues from Great Britain, have now analysed the structures of GPCRs and compared them with one another.From this, they have discovered stabilising frameworks of fine struts present in all receptors and therefore characteristic of the architecture of the entire GPCR family. In addition, they have also found a universal connector for docking molecules in the binding pockets of these receptors. Knowledge of this constructional feature, which has been conserved over the course of evolution, can be of significant assistance in the development of new pharmaceuticals. The scientists have reported on their results in a review article in the renowned scientific journal Nature.
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Nature 494, 185–194 (14 February 2013) doi:10.1038/nature11896 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11896
Dagmar Baroke | idw
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