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Allosteric ligands control the activation of a class C GPCR heterodimer by acting at the transmembra

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are among the most promising drug targets. They often form homo- and heterodimers with allosteric cross-talk between receptor entities, which contributes to fine-tuning of transmembrane signaling. Specifically controlling the activity of GPCR dimers with ligands is a good approach to clarify their physiological roles and validate them as drug targets. Here, we examined the mode of action of positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) that bind at the interface of the transmembrane domains of the heterodimeric GABAB receptor. Our site-directed mutagenesis results show that mutations of this interface impact the function of the three PAMs tested. The data support the inference that they act at the active interface between both transmembrane domains, the binding site involving residues of the TM6s of the GABAB1 and the GABAB2 subunit. Importantly, the agonist activity of these PAMs involves a key region in the central core of the GABAB2 transmembrane domain, which also controls the constitutive activity of the GABAB receptor. This region corresponds to the sodium ion binding site in class A GPCRs that controls the basal state of the receptors. Overall, these data reveal the possibility of developing allosteric compounds able to specifically modulate the activity of GPCR homo- and heterodimers by acting at their transmembrane interface.


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