The oxytocin receptor antagonist atosiban inhibits cell growth via a "biased agonist" mechanism

Alessandra Reversi, Valeria Rimoldi, Tiziana Marrocco, Paola Cassoni, Giovanni Bussolati, Marco Parenti, Bice Chini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In human myometrial cells, the promiscuous coupling of the oxytocin receptors (OTRs) to Gq and Gi leads to contraction. However, the activation of OTRs coupled to different G protein pathways can also trigger opposite cellular responses, e.g. OTR coupling to Gi inhibits, whereas its coupling to Gq stimulates, cell proliferation. Drug analogues capable of promoting a selective receptor-G protein coupling may be of great pharmacological and clinical importance because they may target only one specific signal transduction pathway. Here, we report that atosiban, an oxytocin derivative that acts as a competitive antagonist on OTR/Gq coupling, displays agonistic properties on OTR/Gi coupling, as shown by specific 35S-labeled guanosine 5′-3-O-(thio) trisphosphate ([35S]GTPγS) binding. Moreover, atosiban, by acting on a G i-mediated pathway, inhibits cell growth of HEK293 and Hadin-Darby canine kidney cells stably transfected with OTRs and of DU145 prostate cancer cells expressing endogenous OTRs. Notably, atosiban leads to persistent ERK1/2 activation and p21WAF1/CIP1 induction, the same signaling events leading to oxytocin-mediated cell growth inhibition via a Gi pathway. Finally, atosiban exposure did not cause OTR internalization and led to only a modest decrease (20%) in the number of high affinity cell membrane OTRs, two observations consistent with the finding that atosiban did not lead to any desensitization of the oxytocin-induced activation of the Gq- phospholipase C pathway. Taken together, these observations indicate that atosiban acts as a "biased agonist" of the human OTRs and thus belongs to the class of compounds capable of selectively discriminating only one among the multiple possible active conformations of a single G protein-coupled receptor, thereby leading to the selective activation of a unique intracellular signal cascade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16311-16318
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Apr 22 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'The oxytocin receptor antagonist atosiban inhibits cell growth via a "biased agonist" mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this