Endocrinology Journal Article

The Complex Signaling Pathways of the Ghrelin Receptor

February 12, 2020
 

Morten Adler Hedegaard and Birgitte Holst
Endocrinology, Volume 161, Issue 4, April 2020, bqaa020
https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa020

Abstract

The ghrelin receptor (GhrR) is known for its strong orexigenic effects in pharmacological doses and has long been considered as a promising target for the treatment of obesity. Several antagonists have been developed to decrease the orexigenic signaling, but none of these have been approved for the treatment of obesity because of adverse effects and lack of efficacy. Heterodimerization and biased signaling are important concepts for G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling, and the influence of these aspects on the GhrR may be important for feeding behavior and obesity. GhrR has been described to heterodimerize with other GPCRs, such as the dopamine receptors 1 and 2, leading to a modulation of the signaling properties of both dimerization partners. Another complicating factor of GhrR-mediated signaling is its ability to activate several different signaling pathways on ligand stimulation. Importantly, some ligands have shown to be “biased” or “functionally selective,” implying that the ligand favors a particular signaling pathway. These unique signaling properties could have a sizeable impact on the physiological functions of the GhrR system. Importantly, heterodimerization may explain why the GhrR is expressed in areas of the brain that are difficult for peptide ligands to access. One possibility is that the purpose of GhrR expression is to modulate the function of other receptors in addition to merely being independently activated. We suggest that a deeper understanding of the signaling properties of the GhrR will facilitate future drug discovery in the areas of obesity and weight management.

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