Constitutively active G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) can signal even in the absence of ligand binding. Most Class I GPCRs are stabilized in the resting conformation by intramolecular interactions involving transmembrane domain (TM) 3 and TM6, particularly at loci 6.30 and 6.34 of TM6. Signaling by Gi/Go-coupled receptors such as the Neuropeptide Y1 receptor decreases already low basal metabolite levels. Thus, we examined constitutive activity using a biochemical assay mediated by a Gi/Gq chimeric protein and a more direct electrophysiological assay. Wild-type (WT-Y1) receptors express no measurable, agonist-independent activation, while μ-opioid receptors (MOR) and P2Y12 purinoceptors showed clear evidence of constitutive activation, especially in the electrophysiological assay. Neither point mutations at TM6 (T6.30A or N6.34A) nor substitution of the entire TM3 and TM6 regions from the MOR into the Y1 receptor increased basal WT-Y1 activation. By contrast, chimeric substitution of the third intracellular loop (ICL3) generated a constitutively active, Y1-ICL3-MOR chimera. Furthermore, the loss of stabilizing interactions from the native ICL3 enhanced the role of surrounding residues to permit basal receptor activation; because constitutive activity of the Y1-ICL3-MOR chimera was further increased by point mutation at locus 6.34, which did not alter WT-Y1 receptor activity. Our results indicate that the ICL3 stabilizes the Y1 receptor in the inactive state and confers structural properties critical for regulating Y receptor activation and signal transduction. These studies reveal the active participation of the ICL3 in the stabilization and activation of Class I GPCRs
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