The importance of specific amino acid residues in transmembrane domains 3 and 5 of a corticotropin releasing-factor receptor for functional activity of a CRF-R1 selective small molecule antagonist
Grigoriadis, Christopher Emil
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INTRODUCTION: For many years, stress and anxiety disorders have taken a heavy toll on the American population. Affecting approximately 40 million individuals over the age of 18, the discovery of treatment options is very important. Ever since the 1950s, a wide variety of compounds have been discovered and proven to have antagonistic properties for such disorders. For the last three decades, however, researchers have focused on a specific peptide that was discovered in 1981 by Dr. Wylie Vale and his colleagues at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, corticotropin releasing factor (CRF). CRF is a 41 amino acid peptide that has been shown to play a very important role in an organism's endocrine response to stress through the activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Ever since its discovery, the identification and characterization of the CRF receptors and family members have allowed for the development of novel peptide and non–peptide antagonists. Unfortunately, these compounds have been unsuccessful in the progression to later stage clinical trials that could lead to promising therapeutics. There are two receptor subtypes for this family of peptides known as CRFR1 and CRFR2. While there have been many compounds identified that can block CRFR1, currently, there are no known selective non–peptide antagonists for the CRFR2 subtype. As the two receptor subtypes share 70% sequence identity, close observation of the functional properties of antagonist ligands for CRFR1 may lead to the development of such ligands for CRFR2. METHODS: In our current study, we focused on two residues in transmembrane domains (TMD) 3 (His199) and 5 (Met276) of CRFR1 that have proven to be important for the function of the highly selective small molecule antagonist antalarmin. In order to further prove the importance of these sites, we have mutated the two corresponding amino acids in CRFR2β to those of CRFR1: V215H in TMD 3 and V292M in TMD 5. In addition, we mutated a third amino acid residue, M293I, in order to avoid the positioning of two adjacent methionine amino acids. With this mutant construct, CRE–luciferase and cyclic AMP radioimmunoassay methodologies were used to observe the function of antalarmin on CRFR1, the mutant and wild type CRFR2β. The accumulation of cAMP was measured intracellularly following stimulation by the CRF receptor peptide agonists sauvagine, isolated from frog, and urocortin 1, isolated from rat. RESULTS: For the initial CRE–luciferase functional assay, we used the CRF receptor agonist sauvagine on our mutant CRFR2β to indirectly measure the accumulation of intracellular cAMP through the enzyme luciferase. In the presence or absence of the antagonist antalarmin, there were no significant changes on the function of the mutant CRFR2β. On the other hand, when directly measuring the accumulation of intracellular cAMP via radioimmunoassay, antalarmin successfully showed a functional inhibitory effect on the mutant CRFR2β receptor. As expected, Ucn1 stimulation of CRFR1 in the presence of antalarmin indicated a decrease in the EC50 for the peptide agonist, and thus an inhibitory effect by antalarmin. Compared to CRFR1, we observed a similar effect for Ucn1 stimulation of the mutant CRFR2β receptor in the presence of antalarmin. While the presence or absence of antalarmin did not have a significant inhibitory effect on the wild type CRFR2β, it can be concluded that the mutant CRFR2β receptor possessed similar properties to the CRFR1 receptor with respect to antalarmin antagonist activity. CONCLUSION: In our study, we were able to further support the importance of the two amino acid residues in TMD 3 and 5 of CRFR1 for the function of small molecule antagonists. In addition, we were able to show that antalarmin, a small molecule antagonist known to be highly selective for CRFR1, can have a functional inhibitory effect on the mutant CRFR2β. The progressive study of these discrete differences between the two CRF receptor subtypes may enable the discovery of novel selective non–peptide CRFR2β receptor antagonists.