Subdomain 2, Not the Transmembrane Domain, Determines the Dimerization Partner of Growth Hormone Receptor and Prolactin Receptor

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Growth hormone receptor (GHR) and prolactin (PRL) receptor (PRLR) are homologous transmembrane class I cytokine receptors. In humans, GH interacts with GHR homodimers or PRLR homodimers and PRL interacts with only PRLR homodimers to promote signaling. In human breast cancer cells endogenously expressing both receptors, GHR and PRLR specifically coimmunoprecipitate. We previously devised a split luciferase complementation assay to study GHR and PRLR assemblages. In this technique, firefly luciferase is split into two fragments (N- and C-terminal fragments of the luciferase), each without enzyme activity and tethered to the tails of two receptors. The fragments restore luciferase activity when brought close to each other by the receptors. Real-time ligand-induced complementation changes reflect the arrangement of receptors and indicate that GHR/PRLR is arranged as a heteromultimer comprised of GHR-GHR homodimers and PRLR-PRLR homodimers. We now dissect determinants for GHR and PRLR homodimerization versus heteroassociation. GHR and PRLR have extracellular domains comprised of the ligand-binding N-terminal subdomain 1 and a membrane-proximal subdomain 2 (S2), which fosters receptor-receptor contact. Based on previous studies of S2 versus the transmembrane domain (TMD) in GHR dimerization, we constructed GHR(PRLRS2), GHR(PRLRS2-TMD), and GHR(PRLRTMD), replacing GHR's S2 alone, S2 plus TMD, and TMD alone with PRLR's counterpart. We tested by complementation the ability of these chimeras and GHR or PRLR to homodimerize or heteroassociate. Comparing various combinations, we found GHR(PRLRS2) and GHR(PRLRS2-TMD) behaved as PRLR, whereas GHR(PRLRTMD) behaved as GHR regarding their dimerization partners. We conclude that S2 of GHR and PRLR, rather than their TMDs, determines their dimerization partner.

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