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G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) mediate cellular responses to various hormones and neurotransmitters and are important targets for treating a wide spectrum of diseases. Although significant advances have been made in structural studies of GPCRs, details of their activation mechanism remain unclear. The X-ray crystal structure of the M2 muscarinic receptor, a key GPCR that regulates human heart rate and contractile forces of cardiomyocytes, was determined recently in an inactive antagonist-bound state. Here, activation of the M2 receptor is directly observed via accelerated molecular dynamics simulation, in contrast to previous microsecond-timescale conventional molecular dynamics simulations in which the receptor remained inactive. Receptor activation is characterized by formation of a Tyr206(5.58)-Tyr440(7.53) hydrogen bond and ∼6-Å outward tilting of the cytoplasmic end of transmembrane α-helix 6, preceded by relocation of Trp400(6.48) toward Phe195(5.47) and Val199(5.51) and flipping of Tyr430(7.43) away from the ligand-binding cavity. Network analysis reveals that communication in the intracellular domains is greatly weakened during activation of the receptor. Together with the finding that residue motions in the ligand-binding and G-protein-coupling sites of the apo receptor are correlated, this result highlights a dynamic network for allosteric regulation of the M2 receptor activation.


Yinglong Miao, Sara E Nichols, Paul M Gasper, Vincent T Metzger, J Andrew McCammon. Activation and dynamic network of the M2 muscarinic receptor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013 Jul 02;110(27):10982-7

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PMID: 23781107

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