We examined the role of G-protein coupled receptor kinase-2 (GRK2) in the homologous desensitization of mGlu4 metabotropic glutamate receptors transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells. Receptor activation with the agonist L-2-amino-4-phosphonobutanoate (L-AP4) stimulated at least two distinct signaling pathways: inhibition of cAMP formation and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway [assessed by Western blot analysis of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) 1 and 2]. Activation of both pathways was attenuated by pertussis toxin. Overexpression of GRK2 (but not GRK4) largely attenuated the stimulation of the MAPK pathway by L-AP4, whereas it slightly potentiated the inhibition of FSK-stimulated cAMP formation. Transfection with a kinase-dead mutant of GRK2 (GRK2-K220R) or with the C-terminal fragment of GRK2 also reduced the mGlu4-mediated stimulation of MAPK, suggesting that GRK2 binds to the Gβγ subunits to inhibit signal propagation toward the MAPK pathway. This was confirmed by the evidence that GRK2 coimmunoprecipitated with Gβγ subunits in an agonist-dependent manner. Finally, neither GRK2 nor its kinase-dead mutant had any effect on agonist-induced mGlu4 receptor internalization in HEK293 cells transiently transfected with GFP-tagged receptors. Agonist-dependent internalization was instead abolished by a negative-dominant mutant of dynamin, which also reduced the stimulation of MAPK pathway by L-AP4. We speculate that GRK2 acts as a "switch molecule" by inhibiting the mGlu4 receptor-mediated stimulation of MAPK and therefore directing the signal propagation toward the inhibition of adenylyl cyclase.
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