Human arginine vasopressin receptor 2 (AVPR2) is an ?-helical membrane protein expressed in the collecting ducts of the kidneys involved in regulating urine volume. Mutations of AVPR2 at some 96 sites are known to cause nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI), likely by promoting misfolding. The vasopressin antagonist drugs (?vaptans?) have been shown to rescue cell-surface expression, putatively by acting as chaperones stabilizing the native folded state. Thus, understanding the relative energetics of the folded and misfolded states in the presence and absence of ligands would shed light on the native structural dynamics of AVPR2 and how those dynamics are changed by disease-causing mutations. Such results would be relevant to NDI, and also more generally to diseases arising from G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). However, the established biochemical technique of chemical denaturation in detergent micelles that is used to measure membrane-protein thermodynamic stability (?G) and its change upon mutation or ligand binding (??G) suffers from several limitations that make it unsuitable for studies of AVPR2. In particular, the non-native detergent environment, the poorly defined denatured state with significant residual secondary structure, and the need to extrapolate from high denaturant concentration cause the measured energetics to poorly reflect the underlying, biologically relevant molecular values. Most significantly, chemical-denaturation-based techniques have never been successfully applied to GPCRs because GPCRs do not globally refold when the denaturant is removed. These shortcomings motivate the overall aim of this proposal: to develop alternate techniques for measuring membrane-protein energetics, based on force-induced unfolding rather than chemical denaturation. Such techniques, implemented on an atomic force microscope (AFM), can study membrane proteins in the native lipid bilayer and obviate the problem of globally reversible unfolding by probing a small portion of the protein at a time. Work during the postdoctoral K99 phase will use the model membrane protein bacteriorhodopsin (bR) to further develop these force-based techniques. Two particular aims will be achieved: (1) measurement of point-mutant free energy changes of bR in its native bilayer and without confounding chemical denaturant and (2) quantification of the energetics of a photo-activated ligand isomerization in bR. Completing this work during the K99 phase will establish the basis for the aim of the independent R00 phase: to elucidate the folding and ligand-interaction energetics of AVPR2 using these new techniques. In addition to providing specific insight into AVPR2 folding and misfolding, this work will establish a new paradigm in which energetic measurements can be made directly in biomedically relevant systems like AVPR2, rather than just in model systems. The transition to independence will also be facilitated by training during the K99 phase, most notably in the expression and purification of GPCR samples. The University of Colorado provides world-class facilities for carrying out this work, and co-mentors will offer expertise in both single-molecule AFM experiments and membrane-protein biochemistry.

Public Health Relevance

This proposal involves developing techniques for measuring the energetics of G-protein coupled receptors in an atomic force microscopy assay without chemical denaturant. The techniques will be applied to arginine vasopressin receptor 2, informing the molecular origins of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. More generally, development of these techniques will establish a paradigm in which energetic measurements may be made directly on biomedically relevant systems, rather than model systems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Career Transition Award (K99)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZGM1)
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Flicker, Paula F
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University of Colorado at Boulder
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United States
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