Assessments of cellular melatonin receptor signaling pathways: β-arrestin recruitment, receptor internalization, and impedance variations

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Melatonin receptors belong to the family of G-protein coupled receptors. Agonist-induced receptor activation is terminated with the recruitment of β-arrestin, which leads to receptor internalization. Furthermore, agonist binding induces a shift in cellular shape that translates into a change in the electric impedance of the cell. In the present study, we employed engineered cells to study these internalization-related processes in the context of the two melatonin receptors, MT1 and MT2. To assess these three receptor internalization-related functions and validate the results, we employed four classical ligands of melatonin receptors: the natural agonist melatonin; the super-agonist 2-iodo-melatonin and the two antagonists luzindole and 4-phenyl-2-propionamidotetralin. The assessments confirmed the nature of the agonistic ligands but showed that 4-phenyl-2-propionamidotetralin, a described antagonist, is a biased partial agonist at MT2 with poorer affinity for MT1. The methods are now available to be applied to any receptor system for which multiple signaling pathways must be evaluated for new molecules.

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