• affinity label;
  • guanylate cyclase C;
  • heat-stable enterotoxin;
  • structure–activity relationships

Abstract:  Guanylate cyclase C (GC-C), a member of the membrane-bound GC family, consists of an extracellular domain (ECD) and an intracellular domain, which are connected by a single-transmembrane region. GC-C is a receptor protein, i.e. specifically stimulated by the endogenous peptides guanylin, uroguanylin, lymphoguanylin, and the exogenous peptide heat-stable enterotoxin (STa), secreted by pathogenic Escherichia coli and acting on the intestinal brush border membranes. The binding of these peptide ligands to the ECD of GC-C results in the synthesis of cyclic GMP in cells, which, in turn, regulates a variety of intracellular physiologic processes. As the cloning of GC-C, its physiologic functions of each domain have been vigorously investigated. The structural characterization of the ligand-binding domain of the receptor promises to provide important clues for better understanding of the mechanisms of receptor recognition and activation. Recently, structural data for each domain of membrane-bound GCs and related proteins has become available. Coupling information obtained from such work and validation of structure–function relationships of GC-C and its ligands should allow for three-dimensional mapping of their interaction site in detail. Our approach to this issue involved designing photoaffinity-labeling STa analogs, capable of binding covalently to the ligand-binding region of the ECD of GC-C. The photoaffinity-labeling ligand was used to covalently label a soluble form of the recombinant ECD protein. Mass spectrometric analyses of an endoproteinase digest of the ECD revealed that the ligand specifically bound to a narrow region contained in the membrane-proximal subdomain of the ECD of GC-C. These results will enable us to identify the possible binding motifs within the ligand-binding domain by computer modeling. In this review, we summarize the available data on the recognition mechanism between STa and GC-C at the molecular level.