Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cell and Regulatory Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Richard B Clark

Committee Member

Carmen W Dessauer

Committee Member

Jeffrey A Frost

Committee Member

Olivier Lichtarge

Committee Member

John S McMurray


One of the most critical aspects of G Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) regulation is their rapid and acute desensitization following agonist stimulation. Phosphorylation of these receptors by GPCR kinases (GRK) is a major mechanism of desensitization. Considerable evidence from studies of rhodopsin kinase and GRK2 suggests there is an allosteric docking site for the receptor distinct from the GRK catalytic site. While the agonist-activated GPCR appears crucial for GRK activation, the molecular details of this interaction remain unclear. Recent studies suggested an important role for the N- and C-termini and domains in the small lobe of the kinase domain in allosteric activation; however, neither the mechanism of action of that site nor the RH domain contributions have been elucidated. To search for the allosteric site, we first indentified evolutionarily conserved sites within the RH and kinase domains presumably deterministic of protein function employing evolutionary trace (ET) methodology and crystal structures of GRK6. Focusing on a conserved cluster centered on helices 3, 9, and 10 in the RH domain, key residues of GRK5 and 6 were targeted for mutagenesis and functional assays. We found that a number of double mutations within helices 3, 9, and 10 and the N-terminus markedly reduced (50-90%) the constitutive phosphorylation of the β-2 Adrenergic Receptor (β2AR) in intact cells and phosphorylation of light-activated rhodopsin (Rho*) in vitro as compared to wild type (WT) GRK5 or 6. Based on these results, we designed peptide mimetics of GRK5 helix 9 both computationally and through chemical modifications with the goal of both confirming the importance of helix 9 and developing a useful inhibitor to disrupt the GPCR-GRK interaction. Several peptides were found to block Rho* phosphorylation by GRK5 including the native helix 9 sequence, Peptide Builder designed-peptide preserving only the key ET residues, and chemically locked helices. Most peptidomimetics showed inhibition of GRK5 activity greater than 80 % with an IC50 of ~ 30 µM. Alanine scanning of helix 9 has further revealed both essential and non-essential residues for inhibition. Importantly, substitution of Arg 169 by an alanine in the native helix 9-based peptide gave an almost complete inhibition at 30 µM with an IC50 of ~ 10 µM. In summary we report a previously unrecognized crucial role for the RH domain of GRK5 and 6, and the subsequent identification of a lead peptide inhibitor of protein-protein interaction with potential for specific blockade of GPCR desensitization.


Beta 2 adrenergic receptor, Rhodopsin, GPCR, G Protein coupled-Receptor Kinase (GRK), Evolutionary Trace, desensitization, RGS homology domain, protein-protein interaction, peptide inhibition



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