Evolutionary and Pharmacological Studies of NPY and QRFP Receptors

University dissertation from Uppsala, Sweden : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The neuropeptide Y (NPY) system consists of 3-4 peptides and 4-7 receptors in vertebrates. It has powerful effects on appetite regulation and is involved in many other biological processes including blood pressure regulation, bone formation and anxiety. This thesis describes studies of the evolution of the NPY system by comparison of several vertebrate species and structural studies of the human Y2 receptor, which reduces appetite, to identify amino acid residues involved in peptide-receptor interactions.The NPY system was studied in zebrafish (Danio rerio), western clawed frog (Xenopus tropicalis), and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). The receptors were cloned and functionally expressed and their pharmacological profiles were determined using the native peptides in either binding studies or a signal transduction assay. Some peptide-receptor preferences were observed, indicating functional specialization.A receptor family closely related to the NPY receptors, called the QRFP receptors, was investigated. A QRFP receptor was cloned from amphioxus, Branchistoma floridae, showing that the receptor arose before the origin of the vertebrates. Evolutionary studies demonstrated that the ancestral vertebrate had as many as four QRFP receptors, only one of which remains in mammals today. This correlates with the NPY receptor family, located in the same chromosomal regions, which had seven members in the ancestral vertebrate but only 4-5 in living mammals. Some vertebrates have considerably more complex NPY and QRFP receptor systems than humans and other mammals.Two studies investigated interactions of NPY-family peptides with the human Y2 receptor. Candidate residues, selected based on structural modeling and docking, were mutated to disrupt possible interactions with peptide ligands. The modified receptors were expressed in cultured cells and investigated by measuring binding and functional responses. Several receptor residues were found to influence peptide-receptor interactions, some of which are involved in maintaining receptor structure. In a pilot study, the kinetics of peptide-receptor interaction were found to be very slow, of the order several hours.In conclusion, this thesis clarifies evolutionary relationships for the complex NPY and QRFP peptide-receptor systems and improves the structural models of the human NPY-family receptors, especially Y2. These results will hopefully facilitate drug design for targeting of NPY-family receptors.

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