Design and development of stapled transmembrane peptides that disrupt the activity of G-protein coupled receptor oligomers

Joaquin Botta, Lucka Bibic, Patrick Killoran, Peter McCormick, Lesley A. Howell

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Membrane proteins can associate into larger complexes. Examples include receptor tyrosine complexes, ion channels, transporters and G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). For the latter, there is abundant evidence indicating that GPCRs, assemble into complexes, through both homo or heterodimerization. However, the tools for studying and disrupting these complexes, GPCR or otherwise, are limited. Here we have developed stabilized interference peptides for this purpose. We have previously reported that tetrahydrocannabinol-mediated cognitive impairment arises from homo- or hetero-oligomerization between the GPCRs cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R) and 5-hydroxytryptamine 2A (5-HT2AR) receptors. Here, to disrupt this interaction through targeting CB1–5-HT2A receptor heteromers in HEK293 cells and using an array of biochemical techniques, including calcium and cAMP measurements, bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays, and CD-based helicity assessments, we developed a NanoLuc binary technology (NanoBiT)-based reporter assay to screen a small library of aryl-carbon–stapled transmembrane mimicking peptides produced by solid-phase peptide synthesis. We found that these stapling peptides have increased α-helicity and improved proteolytic resistance without any loss of disrupting activity in vitro, suggesting that this approach may also have utility in vivo. In summary, our results provide proof of concept for using NanoBiT to study membrane protein complexes and for stabilizing disrupting peptides to target such membrane complexes through hydrocarbon-mediated stapling. We propose that these peptides could be developed to target previously un-druggable GPCR heteromers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16587-16603
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number45
Early online date29 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2019

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