G protein-coupled receptor-G protein interactions: a single-molecule perspective

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G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) regulate many cellular and physiological processes, responding to a diverse range of extracellular stimuli including hormones, neurotransmitters, odorants and light. Decades of biochemical and pharmacological studies have provided fundamental insights into the mechanisms of GPCR signaling. Thanks to recent advances in structural biology, we now possess an atomistic understanding of receptor activation and G protein coupling. However, how GPCRs and G proteins interact in living cells to confer signaling efficiency and specificity remains insufficiently understood. The development of advanced optical methods, including single-molecule microscopy, has provided the means to study receptors and G proteins in living cells with unprecedented spatio-temporal resolution. The results of these studies reveal an unexpected level of complexity, whereby GPCRs undergo transient interactions among themselves as well as with G proteins and structural elements of the plasma membrane to form short-lived signaling nanodomains that likely confer both rapidity and specificity to GPCR signaling. These findings may provide new strategies to pharmaceutically modulate GPCR function, which might eventually pave the way to innovative drugs for common diseases such as diabetes or heart failure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-906
Number of pages50
JournalPhysiological Reviews
Issue number3
Early online date17 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • GPCR
  • G Protein
  • single-molecule microscopy
  • cell-signaling
  • protein-protein interactions


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