Research ArticleNeuroscience

Decoding Signaling and Function of the Orphan G Protein–Coupled Receptor GPR17 with a Small-Molecule Agonist

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Sci. Signal.  22 Oct 2013:
Vol. 6, Issue 298, pp. ra93
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2004350

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Replacement of the lost myelin sheath is a therapeutic goal for treating demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system (CNS), such as multiple sclerosis (MS). The G protein (heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide–binding protein)–coupled receptor (GPCR) GPR17, which is phylogenetically closely related to receptors of the “purinergic cluster,” has emerged as a modulator of CNS myelination. However, whether GPR17-mediated signaling positively or negatively regulates this critical process is unresolved. We identified a small-molecule agonist, MDL29,951, that selectively activated GPR17 even in a complex environment of endogenous purinergic receptors in primary oligodendrocytes. MDL29,951-stimulated GPR17 engaged the entire set of intracellular adaptor proteins for GPCRs: G proteins of the Gαi, Gαs, and Gαq subfamily, as well as β-arrestins. This was visualized as alterations in the concentrations of cyclic adenosine monophosphate and inositol phosphate, increased Ca2+ flux, phosphorylation of extracellular signal–regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2), as well as multifeatured cell activation recorded with label-free dynamic mass redistribution and impedance biosensors. MDL29,951 inhibited the maturation of primary oligodendrocytes from heterozygous but not GPR17 knockout mice in culture, as well as in cerebellar slices from 4-day-old wild-type mice. Because GPCRs are attractive targets for therapeutic intervention, inhibiting GPR17 emerges as therapeutic strategy to relieve the oligodendrocyte maturation block and promote myelin repair in MS.

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