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G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest family of integral membrane proteins and a major class of drug targets. Membranes are known to have modulatory effects on GPCRs via specific lipid interactions. However, the mechanisms of such modulations in cell membranes and how they influence GPCR functions remain unclear. Here we report coarse-grained MD simulations on the Adenosine A2a receptor embedded in an in vivo mimetic membrane model comprised of 10 different lipid species. Three conformational states of the receptor, i.e. the inactive state, the active state, and the active state with a mini-GS protein bound were simulated to study the impact of protein-lipid interactions on the receptor activation. The simulations revealed three specific lipids (GM3, cholesterol and PIP2) that form stable and preferential interactions with the receptor, differentiating these from bulk lipids such as PS, PE and PC. In total, nine specific lipid-binding sites were revealed. The strength of lipid interaction with these sites depends on the conformational state of the receptor, suggesting that these lipids may regulate the conformational dynamics of the receptor. In particular, we revealed a dual role of PIP2 in promoting A2aR activation, which involves stabilization of both the characteristic outward tilt of helix TM6 within receptor and also the association of A2aR and mini-Gs when the activated complex forms. Structural comparisons suggested that PIP2 may facilitate Gα activation. Our results reveal likely allosteric effects of bound lipids in regulating the functional behaviour of GPCRs, providing a springboard for design of allosteric modulators of these biomedically important receptors.

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Conference paper

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