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G protein coupled receptor interactions with cholesterol deep in the membrane

Journal article
Authors Samuel Genheden
Jonathan W. Essex
Anthony G. Lee
Published in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Volume 1859
Issue 2
Pages 268-281
ISSN 00052736
Publication year 2017
Published at
Pages 268-281
Language en
Keywords Binding sites, Cholesterol, G protein coupled receptor, GPCR, Lipids, Molecular dynamics
Subject categories Biophysics, Theoretical Chemistry


G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are located in membranes rich in cholesterol. The membrane spanning surfaces of GPCRs contain exposed backbone carbonyl groups and residue side chains potentially capable of forming hydrogen bonds to cholesterol molecules buried deep within the hydrophobic core of the lipid bilayer. Coarse-grained molecular dynamics (CGMD) simulations allow the observation of GPCRs in cholesterol-containing lipid bilayers for long times (50 μs), sufficient to ensure equilibration of the system. We have detected a number of deep cholesterol binding sites on β2 adrenergic and A2A adenosine receptors, and shown changes in these sites on agonist binding. The requirements for binding are modest, just a potential hydrogen bond partner close to a cleft or hole in the surface. This makes it likely that similar binding sites for cholesterol will exist on other classes of membrane protein.

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