Functional expression of opioid receptors and other human GPCRs in yeast engineered to produce human sterols
The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a powerful tool for studying G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) as they can be functionally coupled to its pheromone response pathway. Yet some exogenous GPCRs, including the mu opioid receptor, are non-functional in yeast, which may be due to the presence of the fungal sterol ergosterol instead of the animal sterol cholesterol. We engineered yeast to produce cholesterol and introduced the human mu opioid receptor, creating an opioid biosensor capable of
... tecting the peptide DAMGO at an EC50 of 62 nM and the opiate morphine at an EC50 of 882 nM. Furthermore, introducing mu, delta and kappa opioid receptors from diverse vertebrates consistently yielded active opioid biosensors that both recapitulated expected agonist binding profiles with EC50s as low as 2.5 nM and were inhibited by the antagonist naltrexone. Additionally, clinically relevant human mu opioid receptor alleles, or variants with terminal mutations, resulted in biosensors that largely displayed the expected changes in activity. We also tested mu opioid receptor-based biosensors with systematically adjusted biosynthetic intermediates of cholesterol, enabling us to relate sterol profiles with biosensor sensitivity. Finally our cholesterol-producing biosensor background was applied to other human GPCRs, resulting in SSTR5, 5-HTR4, FPR1 and NPY1R signaling with varying degrees of cholesterol dependence. Our sterol-optimized platform will be a valuable tool in generating human GPCR-based biosensors, aiding in ongoing receptor deorphanization efforts, and providing a framework for high-throughput screening of receptors and effectors.