The gonadotrophin-releasing hormone receptor: signalling, cycling and desensitisation

C A McArdle, J Franklin, L Green, J N Hislop

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Sustained stimulation of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) typically causes receptor desensitisation that is mediated by phosphorylation, often within the C-terminal tail of the receptor. The consequent binding of beta-arrestin not only prevents the receptor from activating its G-protein (causing desensitisation) but can also target it for internalisation via clathrin-coated vesicles and can mediate signalling to proteins regulating endocytosis and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades. GnRH acts via phospholipase C coupled GPCRs on pituitary gonadotrophs. The type I GnRH-receptors (GnRH-Rs) found only in mammals, are unique in that they lack C-terminal tails and apparently do not undergo agonist-induced phosphorylation or bind beta-arrestin. They are therefore resistant to receptor desensitisation and internalise slowly. In contrast, the type II GnRH-Rs, found in numerous vertebrates, possess such tails and show rapid desensitisation and internalisation with concomitant receptor phosphorylation (within the C-terminal tails) and/or binding of beta-arrestin. The binding to beta-arrestin may also be important for association with dynamin, a GTPase that controls cleavage of endosomes from the plasma membrane. Using recombinant adenovirus to express GnRH-R, we have found that blockade of dynamin-dependent endocytosis inhibits internalisation of type II (Xenopus) GnRH-Rs but not type I (human) GnRH-Rs, revealing the existence of functionally distinct routes through which these receptors are internalised. Although type I GnRH-R do not rapidly desensitise, sustained activation of GnRH receptors does cause desensitisation of gonadotrophin secretion, an effect which must therefore involve adaptive responses distal to the receptor. One such response is the GnRH-induced down regulation of inositol 1, 4, 5 trisphosphate receptors that apparently underlies desensitisation of Ca2+ mobilisation in a gonadotroph-derived cell line. Although activation of other GPCRs can down-regulate inositol 1, 4, 5 trisphosphate receptors, the effect of GnRH is atypically rapid and pronounced, presumably because of the receptor's atypical resistance to desensitisation. GnRH-Rs are also expressed in several extra-pituitary sites and these may mediate direct inhibition of proliferation of hormone-dependent cancer cells. Infection with type I GnRH-R expressing adenovirus facilitated expression of high affinity, PLC-coupled GnRH-R in mammary and prostate cancer cells and these mediated pronounced antiproliferative effects of receptor agonists. No such effect was seen in cells transfected with a type II GnRH-R, implying that it is mediated most efficiently by a non-desensitising receptor. Thus it appears that the GnRH-Rs have undergone a period of rapidly accelerated molecular evolution that is of functional relevance to GnRH-R signalling in pituitary and extra-pituitary sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2002


  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arrestins
  • Down-Regulation
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasms
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Receptors, LHRH
  • Sheep
  • Signal Transduction


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