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Keywords:

  • binding capacity;
  • cell surface receptor expression;
  • G protein-coupled receptors;
  • ligand binding;
  • oligomerization;
  • receptor dimerization

Many G protein-coupled receptors have been shown to exist as oligomers, but the oligomerization state and the effects of this on receptor function are unclear. For some G protein-coupled receptors, in ligand binding assays, different radioligands provide different maximal binding capacities. Here we have developed mathematical models for co-expressed dimeric and tetrameric species of receptors. We have considered models where the dimers and tetramers are in equilibrium and where they do not interconvert and we have also considered the potential influence of the ligands on the degree of oligomerization. By analogy with agonist efficacy, we have considered ligands that promote, inhibit or have no effect on oligomerization. Cell surface receptor expression and the intrinsic capacity of receptors to oligomerize are quantitative parameters of the equations. The models can account for differences in the maximal binding capacities of radioligands in different preparations of receptors and provide a conceptual framework for simulation and data fitting in complex oligomeric receptor situations.