The emerging role of heterodimerisation and interacting proteins in ghrelin receptor function

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Ghrelin is a peptide hormone secreted primarily by the stomach that acts upon the growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR1), a G protein-coupled receptor whose functions include growth hormone secretion, appetite regulation, energy expenditure, regulation of adiposity, and insulin release. Following the discovery that GHSR1a stimulates food intake, receptor antagonists were developed as potential therapies to regulate appetite. However, despite reductions in signalling, the desired effects on appetite were absent. Studies in the past 15 years have demonstrated GHSR1a can interact with other transmembrane proteins, either by direct binding (i.e. heteromerisation) or via signalling cross-talk. These interactions have various effects on GHSR1a signalling including preferential coupling to one pathway (i.e. biased signalling), coupling to a unique G protein (G protein switching), suppression of GHSR1a signalling, and enhancement of signalling by both receptors. While many of these interactions have been shown in cells overexpressing the proteins of interest and remain to be verified in tissues, substantial evidence exists showing that GHSR1a and the dopamine receptor D1 (DRD1) form heteromers, which promote synaptic plasticity and formation of hippocampal memory. Additionally, a reduction in GHSR1a-DRD1 complexes in favour of establishment of GHSR1a-Aβ complexes correlates with Alzheimer's disease, indicating that GHSR1a heteromers may have pathological functions. Herein, we summarise the evidence published to date describing interactions between GHSR1a and transmembrane proteins, discuss the experimental strengths and limitations of these studies, describe the physiological evidence for each interaction, and address their potential as novel drug targets for appetite regulation, Alzheimer's disease, insulin secretion, and inflammation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R23-R39
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021


  • Appetite
  • Dopamine receptors
  • GPCR
  • Heterodimerisation
  • MRAP2
  • Receptor cross-talk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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