The Fight or Flight Receptor

What does it look like?

Crystal structure of the beta2 adrenergic receptor (that binds adrenaline) in complex with its signalling molecule, the Gs protein (http://www.rcsb.org/pdb/explore/explore.do?structureId=3SN6)

Image generated by Pymol (http://www.pymol.org/)

Image generated by Pymol (http://www.pymol.org/)

What is it?

The surface of all cells in our body are dotted with proteins or receptors. These proteins are critical for a number of physiological functions, from heat beat to brain chemistry, sight and taste. In 2011, Brian Kobilka and his team solved the structure of the adrenaline binding receptor (green) (the adrenaline molecule is shown in pink) attached to its signalling molecule, the Gs protein (red, orange, yellow and blue).  This was the culmination of years of research, trying to stabilise the protein, extract it from its lipid environment and finally, crystallising the protein to determine its structure.

Where did the structure come from?  

The structure was published in the 2011 Nature paper (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21772288). Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka were awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their research into how adrenaline causes its effect in the body via the G-protein–coupled receptors or GPCRs (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2012/) .

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