Research ArticleGPCR SIGNALING

Agonist-Driven Maturation and Plasma Membrane Insertion of Calcium-Sensing Receptors Dynamically Control Signal Amplitude

Sci. Signal.  22 Nov 2011:
Vol. 4, Issue 200, pp. ra78
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002208

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Calcium-sensing receptors (CaSRs) regulate systemic calcium homeostasis in the parathyroid gland, kidney, intestine, and bone and translate fluctuations in serum calcium into peptide hormone secretion, cell signaling, and regulation of gene expression. The CaSR is a G protein (heterotrimeric guanosine triphosphate–binding protein)–coupled receptor that operates in the constant presence of agonist, sensing small changes with high cooperativity and minimal functional desensitization. Here, we used multiwavelength total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to demonstrate that the signaling properties of the CaSR result from agonist-driven maturation and insertion of CaSRs into the plasma membrane. Plasma membrane CaSRs underwent constitutive endocytosis without substantial recycling, indicating that signaling was determined by the rate of insertion of CaSRs into the plasma membrane. Intracellular CaSRs colocalized with calnexin in the perinuclear endoplasmic reticulum and formed complexes with 14-3-3 proteins. Ongoing CaSR signaling resulted from agonist-driven trafficking of CaSR through the secretory pathway. The intracellular reservoir of CaSRs that were mobilized by agonist was depleted when glycosylation of newly synthesized receptors was blocked, suggesting that receptor biosynthesis was coupled to signaling. The continuous, signaling-dependent insertion of CaSRs into the plasma membrane ensured a rapid response to alterations in the concentrations of extracellular calcium or allosteric agonist despite ongoing desensitization and endocytosis. Regulation of CaSR plasma membrane abundance represents a previously unknown mechanism of regulation that may be relevant to other receptors that operate in the chronic presence of agonist.

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