The activation mechanism of glycoprotein hormone receptors with implications in the cause and therapy of endocrine diseases

Antje Brüser, Angela Schulz, Sven Rothemund, Albert Ricken, Davide Calebiro, Gunnar Kleinau, Torsten Schöneberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Glycoprotein hormones (GPHs) are the main regulators of the pituitary-thyroid and pituitary-gonadal axes. Selective interaction between GPHs and their cognate G protein-coupled receptors ensure specificity in GPH signaling. The mechanisms of how these hormones activate glycoprotein hormone receptors (GPHRs) or how mutations and autoantibodies can alter receptor function were unclear. Based on the hypothesis that GPHRs contain an internal agonist, we systematically screened peptide libraries derived from the ectodomain for agonistic activity on the receptors. We show that a peptide (p10) derived from a conserved sequence in the C-terminal part of the extracellular N terminus can activate all GPHRs in vitro and in GPHR-expressing tissues. Inactivating mutations in this conserved region or in p10 can inhibit activation of the thyroid-stimulating hormone receptor by autoantibodies. Our data suggest an activation mechanism where, upon extracellular ligand binding, this intramolecular agonist isomerizes and induces structural changes in the 7-transmembrane helix domain, triggering G protein activation. This mechanism can explain the pathophysiology of activating autoantibodies and several mutations causing endocrine dysfunctions such as Graves disease and hypo- and hyperthyroidism. Our findings highlight an evolutionarily conserved activation mechanism of GPHRs and will further promote the development of specific ligands useful to treat Graves disease and other dysfunctions of GPHRs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-520
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number2
Early online date18 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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