Signal transduction by protease-activated receptors


JoAnn Trejo, Department of Pharmacology, University of California, Biomedical Science Building Room 3044A, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093-0636, USA. E-mail:


The family of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) constitutes the largest class of signalling receptors in the human genome, controlling vast physiological responses and are the target of many drugs. After activation, GPCRs are rapidly desensitized by phosphorylation and β-arrestin binding. Most classic GPCRs are internalized through a clathrin, dynamin and β-arrestin-dependent pathway and then recycled back to the cell surface or sorted to lysosomes for degradation. Given the vast number and diversity of GPCRs, different mechanisms are likely to exist to precisely regulate the magnitude, duration and spatial aspects of receptor signalling. The G protein-coupled protease-activated receptors (PARs) provide elegant examples of GPCRs that are regulated by distinct desensitization and endocytic sorting mechanisms, processes that are critically important for the spatial and temporal fidelity of PAR signalling. PARs are irreversibly activated through proteolytic cleavage and transmit cellular responses to extracellular proteases. Activated PAR1 internalizes through a clathrin- and dynamin-dependent pathway independent of β-arrestins. Interestingly, PAR1 is basally ubiquitinated and deubiquitinated after activation and traffics from endosomes to lysosomes independent of ubiquitination. In contrast, β-arrestins mediate activated PAR2 internalization and function as scaffolds that promote signalling from endocytic vesicles. Moreover, activated PAR2 is modified with ubiquitin, which facilitates lysosomal degradation. Activated PARs also adopt distinct active conformations that signal to diverse effectors and are likely regulated by different mechanisms. Thus, the identification of the molecular machinery important for PAR signal regulation will enable the development of new strategies to manipulate receptor signalling and will provide novel targets for the development of drugs.