The E92K melanocortin 1 receptor mutant induces cAMP production and arrestin recruitment but not ERK activity indicating biased constitutive signaling.

Authors: Benned-Jensen T, Mokrosinski J, and Rosenkilde MM.
Publisher/Year: PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24644.
Pub Med ID/Journal ID: PMID:21931793

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) constitutes a key regulator of melanism. Consequently, many naturally-occurring MC1R mutations are associated with a change in color. An example is the Glu-to-Lys substitution found at position II:20/2.60 in the top of transmembrane helix II which has been identified in melanic mice and several other species. This mutation induces a pronounced increase in MC1R constitutive activity suggesting a link between constitutive activity and melanism which is corroborated by the attenuation of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (αMSH) induced activation. However, the mechanism by which the mutation induces constitutive activity is currently not known.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:

Here we characterize the constitutive activity, cell surface expression and internalization of the mouse mutant, Mc1r E92K. As previously reported, only positively charged residues at position II:20/2.60 induced an increase in constitutive activity as measured by cAMP accumulation and CREB activation. Furthermore, the mutation induced a constitutive recruitment of β-arrestin. This phenomenon is only observed in MC1R, however, as the equivalent mutations in MC2-5R had no effect on receptor signaling. Interestingly, the mutation did not induce constitutive ERK1/2 phosphorylation or increase the internalization rate indicating the constitutive activity to be biased. Finally, to identify regions of importance for the increased constitutive activity of Mc1r E92K, we employed a chimeric approach and identified G102 and L110 in the extracellular loop 1 to be selectively important for the constitutive activity as this, but not αMSH-mediated activation, was abolished upon Ala substitution.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:

It is concluded that the E92K mutation induces an active conformation distinct from that induced by αMSH and that the extracellular loop 1 is involved in maintaining this conformational state. In turn, the results suggest that in MC1R, which lacks an extracellular loop 2, the first extracellular loop may play a more prominent role during receptor activation than in general.