Structural insights into μ-opioid receptor activation

Weijiao Huang, Aashish Manglik, A. J. Venkatakrishnan, Toon Laeremans, Evan N. Feinberg, Adrian L. Sanborn, Hideaki E. Kato, Kathryn E. Livingston, Thor S. Thorsen, Ralf C. Kling, Sébastien Granier, Peter Gmeiner, Stephen M. Husbands, John R. Traynor, William I. Weis, Jan Steyaert, Ron O. Dror, Brian K. Kobilka

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Activation of the μ-opioid receptor (μOR) is responsible for the efficacy of the most effective analgesics. To shed light on the structural basis for μOR activation, here we report a 2.1 Å X-ray crystal structure of the murine μOR bound to the morphinan agonist BU72 and a G protein mimetic camelid antibody fragment. The BU72-stabilized changes in the μOR binding pocket are subtle and differ from those observed for agonist-bound structures of the β 2 -adrenergic receptor (β 2 AR) and the M2 muscarinic receptor. Comparison with active β 2 AR reveals a common rearrangement in the packing of three conserved amino acids in the core of the μOR, and molecular dynamics simulations illustrate how the ligand-binding pocket is conformationally linked to this conserved triad. Additionally, an extensive polar network between the ligand-binding pocket and the cytoplasmic domains appears to play a similar role in signal propagation for all three G-protein-coupled receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-321
Number of pages7
Issue number7565
Early online date5 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2015


  • x-ray crystallography
  • G protein-coupled receptor


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