NIMH » Researchers Solve the Puzzle of a Brain Receptor’s Activation

Analysis Spotlight

G protein-coupled receptors (additionally referred to as metabotropic receptors) are particular places on the floor of nerve cells, or neurons, that assist cells talk with one another. These receptors are activated when signaling molecules bind to them. Nevertheless, for some G protein-coupled receptors, no molecule able to turning on their signaling operate has been recognized.

GPR158 is a G protein-coupled receptor extremely expressed within the mind, particularly within the prefrontal cortex, which is chargeable for thought, planning, and emotion and is linked to psychological problems. Nevertheless, GPR158 will not be properly understood, and a molecule that prompts it had not been recognized—till now.

Progressive new analysis, funded by the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being, recognized a molecule that binds to the GPR158 receptor and triggers its exercise. The examine, led by Kirill Martemyanov, Ph.D., of The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation and Expertise, confirmed that GPR158 is activated by glycine, a molecule that’s each a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger between neurons) and an amino acid (constructing block for proteins). The examine confirmed that glycine can improve communication between neurons by interacting with the G protein-coupled receptor.

What did researchers already learn about GPR158?

A 2018 examine revealed a attainable position for GPR158 in psychological well being by displaying that it’s current at excessive ranges within the brains of individuals with melancholy and within the brains of mice uncovered to persistent stress.

In one other examine, the analysis crew found a singular structural characteristic of the receptor: GPR158 has a website on its floor, known as a Cache area, that may act as a “docking station” for amino acids. Primarily based on this discovery, the researchers suspected an amino acid would possibly resolve the puzzle of GPR158’s activation. However it was unknown which, if any, amino acid binds this distinctive receptor.

What did this new examine reveal about GPR158?

The present examine builds on a big physique of analysis by Martemyanov and colleagues inspecting GPR158. Utilizing the most recent genomic know-how, the researchers first examined a library of amino acids and located that solely glycine impacted GPR158’s mobile signaling.

They then verified that GPR158 is a direct goal of glycine by performing a sequence of experiments becoming glycine into the binding pocket fashioned by the Cache area recognized within the earlier examine. This step confirmed that GPR158 is a receptor for glycine, and glycine prompts the receptor particularly by binding to its Cache area.

Having recognized glycine as a molecule able to turning on GPR158, the researchers utilized glycine on to human cells to see what would occur. In cells expressing GPR158, glycine considerably decreased their mobile signaling. The researchers noticed this glycine-induced discount throughout a number of cell sorts—however not if the cells lacked GPR158. The outcomes confirmed that glycine binds to GPR158 and impacts mobile signaling.

Schematic illustration of proposed mechanism of glycine on the metabotropic glycine receptor, mGlyR. Glycine acts on GPR158 through the RGS7-Gβ5 advanced to change mobile signaling. Courtesy of Martemyanov lab, The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Expertise.

In one other set of experiments, the researchers explored how glycine acts on GPR158 to have an effect on neuronal exercise (the firing of nerve cells that permits them to speak). They discovered that glycine didn’t scale back the exercise of GPR158 itself. As a substitute, glycine diminished the actions of a signaling advanced related to the receptor referred to as RGS7-Gβ5. RGS7-Gβ5 acts as a strong brake on mobile signaling. Thus, in a real-world instance of two negatives making a optimistic end result, glycine decreased the exercise of the RGS7-Gβ5 advanced, which already diminished mobile signaling. Consequently, neuronal firing elevated.

Final, the researchers used mice to look at how glycine’s results on GPR158 would possibly affect the exercise of neurons in areas of the prefrontal cortex the place the receptor is extensively expressed. As anticipated, glycine performing on GPR158 through the RGS7-Gβ5 advanced had an excitatory impact on neuronal exercise, growing neurons’ firing. In distinction, glycine didn’t alter the exercise of cortical neurons missing the receptor.

What did this examine reveal about glycine?

The invention that glycine binds to GPR158 means we higher perceive how the receptor works. Given GPR158’s newly found binding molecule, the researchers have proposed renaming it mGlyR, brief for metabotropic glycine receptor.

Not solely does this examine add to our data of GPR158’s distinctive properties, however it additionally reveals necessary details about glycine. Glycine is taken into account an inhibitory neurotransmitter, that means it reduces the power of neurons to ship chemical messages to different cells. In finishing up this inhibitory motion, glycine had been thought to bind solely to ion channels—websites on the floor of cells that enable charged particles referred to as ions to maneuver out and in of the cell.

The present examine upends our understanding of glycine. The discovering that glycine binds to a G protein-coupled receptor in GPR158 reveals a brand new method that glycine acts within the physique. Furthermore, when glycine binds to the G protein-coupled receptor, it has an excitatory impact that helps neurons ship messages to different cells, revealing a brand new method that neuronal exercise is altered within the mind.

Why does this examine matter?

This examine is extremely impactful as a result of it reveals a number of new findings:  

  • Glycine is the primary (and solely) transmitter for GPR158, which didn’t have an recognized signaling molecule till now.
  • GPR158 is the primary G protein-coupled receptor for glycine, which had beforehand been proven to bind solely to ion channels.
  • Glycine has an excitatory impact on the G protein-coupled receptor, which contrasts its inhibitory impact on ion channels.

The findings spotlight the significance of GPR158 as a receptor able to altering exercise in an space of the mind necessary for understanding and treating psychological problems. This discovery presents a possible new goal for growing improved therapies for psychological problems like nervousness and melancholy.


Laboute, T., Zucca, S., Holcomb, M., Patil, D. N., Garza, C., Wheatley, B. A., Roy, R. N., Forli, S., & Martemyanov, Ok. A. (2023). Orphan receptor GPR158 serves as a metabotropic glycine receptor: mGlyR. Science, 379(6639), 1352–1358.


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