The calcium-sensing receptor (CASR) is a class C G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that detects extracellular calcium concentrations, and modulates parathyroid hormone secretion and urinary calcium excretion to maintain calcium homeostasis. The CASR utilises multiple heterotrimeric G-proteins to mediate signalling effects including activation of intracellular calcium release; mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways; membrane ruffling; and inhibition of cAMP production. By studying germline mutations in the CASR and proteins within its signalling pathway that cause hyper- and hypocalcaemic disorders, novel mechanisms governing GPCR signalling and trafficking have been elucidated. This review focusses on two recently described pathways that provide novel insights into CASR signalling and trafficking mechanisms. The first, identified by studying a CASR gain-of-function mutation that causes autosomal dominant hypocalcaemia (ADH), demonstrated a structural motif located between the third transmembrane domain and the second extracellular loop of the CASR that mediates biased signalling by activating a novel β-arrestin-mediated G-protein-independent pathway. The second, in which the mechanism by which adaptor protein-2 σ-subunit (AP2σ) mutations cause familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia (FHH) was investigated, demonstrated that AP2σ mutations impair CASR internalisation and reduce multiple CASR-mediated signalling pathways. Furthermore, these studies showed that the CASR can signal from the cell surface using multiple G-protein pathways, whilst sustained signalling is mediated only by the Gq/11 pathway. Thus, studies of FHH- and ADH-associated mutations have revealed novel steps by which CASR mediates signalling and compartmental bias, and these pathways could provide new targets for therapies for patients with calcaemic disorders.
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Aqfan Jamaluddin and Caroline M. Gorvin
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) have a critical role in energy homeostasis, contributing to food intake, energy expenditure and glycaemic control. Dysregulation of energy expenditure can lead to metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, elevated plasma triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and glucose, and high blood pressure), which is associated with increased risk of developing obesity, diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cardiovascular complications. As the prevalence of these chronic diseases continue to rise worldwide, there is an increased need to understand the molecular mechanisms by which energy expenditure is regulated to facilitate the development of effective therapeutic strategies to treat and prevent these conditions. In recent years, drugs targeting GPCRs have been the focus of efforts to improve treatments for type-2 diabetes and obesity, with GLP-1R agonists a particular success. In this review, we focus on nine GPCRs with roles in energy homeostasis that are current and emerging targets to treat obesity and diabetes. We discuss findings from pre-clinical models and clinical trials of drugs targeting these receptors and challenges that must be overcome before these drugs can be routinely used in clinics. We also describe new insights into how these receptors signal, including how accessory proteins, biased signalling and complex spatial signalling could provide unique opportunities to develop more efficacious therapies with fewer side effects. Finally, we describe how combined therapies, in which multiple GPCRs are targeted, may improve clinical outcomes and reduce off-target effects.
Caroline M Gorvin
Twenty-five years have elapsed since the calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) was first identified in bovine parathyroid and the receptor is now recognized as a fundamental contributor to extracellular Ca2+ (Ca2+ e) homeostasis, regulating parathyroid hormone release and urinary calcium excretion. The CaSR is a class C G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that is functionally active as a homodimer and couples to multiple G-protein subtypes to activate intracellular signalling pathways. The importance of the CaSR in the regulation of Ca2+ e has been highlighted by the identification of >400 different germline loss- and gain-of-function CaSR mutations that give rise to disorders of Ca2+ e homeostasis. CaSR-inactivating mutations cause neonatal severe hyperparathyroidism, characterised by marked hypercalcaemia, skeletal demineralisation and failure to thrive in early infancy; and familial hypocalciuric hypercalcaemia, an often asymptomatic disorder associated with mild-moderately elevated serum calcium concentrations. Activating mutations are associated with autosomal dominant hypocalcaemia, which is occasionally associated with a Bartter’s-like phenotype. Recent elucidation of the CaSR extracellular domain structure enabled the locations of CaSR mutations to be mapped and has revealed clustering in locations important for structural integrity, receptor dimerisation and ligand binding. Moreover, the study of disease-causing mutations has demonstrated that CaSR signals in a biased manner and have revealed specific residues important for receptor activation. This review presents the current understanding of the genetic landscape of CaSR mutations by summarising findings from clinical and functional studies of disease-associated mutations. It concludes with reflections on how recently uncovered signalling pathways may expand the understanding of calcium homeostasis disorders.
Hasnat Ali Abid, Asuka Inoue, and Caroline M Gorvin
The calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is a G protein-coupled receptor that plays a fundamental role in extracellular calcium (Ca2+ e) homeostasis by regulating parathyroid hormone release and urinary calcium excretion. The CaSR has been described to activate all four G protein subfamilies (Gαq/11, Gαi/o, Gα12/13, Gαs), and mutations in the receptor that cause hyper/hypocalcaemia, have been described to bias receptor signalling. However, many of these studies are based on measurements of second messengers or gene transcription that occurs many steps downstream of receptor activation and can represent convergence points of several signalling pathways. Therefore, to assess CaSR-mediated G protein activation directly, we took advantage of a recently described NanoBiT G protein dissociation assay system. Our studies, performed in HEK293 cells stably expressing CaSR, demonstrate that Ca2+ e stimulation activates all Gαq/11 family and several Gαi/o family proteins, although Gαz was not activated. CaSR stimulated dissociation of Gα12/13 and Gαs from Gβ-subunits, but this occurred at a slower rate than that of other Gα-subunits. Investigation of cDNA expression of G proteins in three tissues abundantly expressing CaSR, the parathyroids, kidneys and pancreas, showed Gα11, Gαz, Gαi1 and Gα13 genes were highly expressed in parathyroid tissue, indicating CaSR most likely activates Gα11 and Gαi1 in parathyroids. In kidney and pancreas, the majority of G proteins were similarly expressed, suggesting CaSR may activate multiple G proteins in these cells. Thus, these studies validate a single assay system that can be used to robustly assess CaSR variants and biased signalling and could be utilised in the development of new pharmacological compounds targeting CaSR.
Caroline M Gorvin, Paul J Newey, and Rajesh V Thakker
The prolactin receptor (PRLR) signals predominantly through the JAK2-STAT5 pathway regulating multiple physiological functions relating to fertility, lactation, and metabolism. However, the molecular pathology and role of PRLR mutations and signalling are incompletely defined, with progress hampered by a lack of reported disease-associated PRLR variants. To date, two common germline PRLR variants are reported to demonstrate constitutive activity, with one, Ile146Leu, overrepresented in benign breast disease, while a rare activating variant, Asn492Ile, is reported to be associated with an increased incidence of prolactinoma. In contrast, an inactivating germline heterozygous PRLR variant (His188Arg) was reported in a kindred with hyperprolactinaemia, while an inactivating compound heterozygous PRLR variant (Pro269Leu/Arg171Stop) was identified in an individual with hyperprolactinaemia and agalactia. We hypothesised that additional rare germline PRLR variants, identified from large-scale sequencing projects (ExAC and GnomAD), may be associated with altered in vitro PRLR signalling activity. We therefore evaluated >300 previously uncharacterised non-synonymous, germline PRLR variants and selected 10 variants for in vitro analysis based on protein prediction algorithms, proximity to known functional domains and structural modelling. Five variants, including extracellular and intracellular domain variants, were associated with altered responses when compared to the wild-type receptor. These altered responses included loss- and gain-of-function activities related to STAT5 signalling, Akt and FOXO1 activity, as well as cell viability and apoptosis. These studies provide further insight into PRLR structure–function and indicate that rare germline PRLR variants may have diverse modulating effects on PRLR signalling, although the pathophysiologic relevance of such alterations remains to be defined.
Kate E Lines, Anna K Gluck, Supat Thongjuea, Chas Bountra, Rajesh V Thakker, and Caroline M Gorvin
Corticotrophinomas represent 10% of all surgically removed pituitary adenomas, however, current treatment options are often not effective, and there is a need for improved pharmacological treatments. Recently, JQ1+, a bromodomain inhibitor that promotes gene transcription by binding acetylated histone residues and recruiting transcriptional machinery, has been shown to reduce proliferation in a murine corticotroph cell line, AtT20. RNA-Seq analysis of AtT20 cells following treatment with JQ1+ identified the calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) gene as significantly downregulated, which was subsequently confirmed using real-time PCR and Western blot analysis. CaSR is a G protein-coupled receptor that plays a central role in calcium homeostasis but can elicit non-calcitropic effects in multiple tissues, including the anterior pituitary where it helps regulate hormone secretion. However, in AtT20 cells, CaSR activates a tumour-specific cAMP pathway that promotes ACTH and PTHrP hypersecretion. We hypothesised that the Casr promoter may harbour binding sites for BET proteins, and using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-sequencing demonstrated that the BET protein Brd3 binds to the promoter of the Casr gene. Assessment of CaSR signalling showed that JQ1+ significantly reduced Ca2+ e-mediated increases in intracellular calcium (Ca2+ i) mobilisation and cAMP signalling. However, the CaSR-negative allosteric modulator, NPS-2143, was unable to reduce AtT20 cell proliferation, indicating that reducing CaSR expression rather than activity is likely required to reduce pituitary cell proliferation. Thus, these studies demonstrate that reducing CaSR expression may be a viable option in the treatment of pituitary tumours. Moreover, current strategies to reduce CaSR activity, rather than protein expression for cancer treatments, may be ineffective.