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CA McArdle, J Franklin, L Green, and JN Hislop

Sustained stimulation of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) typically causes receptor desensitisation, which is mediated by phosphorylation, often within the C-terminal tail of the receptor. The consequent binding of beta-arrestin not only prevents the receptor from activating its G protein (causing desensitisation), but can also target it for internalisation via clathrin-coated vesicles and can mediate signalling to proteins regulating endocytosis and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades. GnRH acts via phospholipase C (PLC)-coupled GPCRs on pituitary gonadotrophs to stimulate a Ca(2+)-mediated increase in gonadotrophin secretion. The type I GnRH receptors (GnRH-Rs), found only in mammals, are unique in that they lack C-terminal tails and apparently do not undergo agonist-induced phosphorylation or bind beta-arrestin; they are therefore resistant to receptor desensitisation and internalise slowly. In contrast, the type II GnRH-Rs, found in numerous vertebrates, possess such tails and show rapid desensitisation and internalisation, with concomitant receptor phosphorylation (within the C-terminal tails) or binding of beta-arrestin, or both. The association with beta-arrestin may also be important for regulation of dynamin, a GTPase that controls separation of endosomes from the plasma membrane. Using recombinant adenovirus to express GnRH-Rs in Hela cells conditionally expressing a dominant negative mutant of dynamin (K44A), we have found that blockade of dynamin-dependent endocytosis inhibits internalisation of type II (xenopus) GnRH-Rs but not type I (human) GnRH-Rs. In these cells, blockade of dynamin-dependent internalisation also inhibited GnRH-R-mediated MAPK activation, but this effect was not receptor specific and therefore not dependent upon dynamin-regulated GnRH-R internalisation. Although type I GnRH-Rs do not desensitise, sustained activation of GnRH-Rs causes desensitisation of gonadotrophin secretion, and we have found that GnRH can cause down-regulation of inositol (1,4,5) trisphosphate receptors and desensitisation of Ca(2+) mobilisation in pituitary cells. The atypical resistance of the GnRH-R to desensitisation may underlie its atypical efficiency at provoking this downstream adaptive response. GnRH-Rs are also expressed in several extrapituitary sites, and these may mediate direct inhibition of proliferation of hormone-dependent cancer cells. Infection with type I GnRH-R-expressing adenovirus facilitated expression of high-affinity, PLC-coupled GnRH-R in mammary and prostate cancer cells, and these mediated pronounced antiproliferative effects of receptor agonists. No such effect was seen in cells transfected with a type II GnRH-R, implying that it is mediated most efficiently by a non-desensitising receptor. Thus it appears that the mammalian GnRH-Rs have undergone a period of rapidly accelerated molecular evolution that is of functional relevance to GnRH-Rs in pituitary and extrapituitary sites.