G protein-coupled receptor Gpr4 senses amino acids and activates the cAMP-PKA pathway in Cryptococcus neoformans

Chaoyang Xue, Yong Sun Bahn, Gary M. Cox, Joseph Heitman

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123 Scopus citations


The Gα protein Gpa1 governs the cAMP-PKA signaling pathway and plays a central role in virulence and differentiation in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans, but the signals and receptors that trigger this pathway were unknown. We identified seven putative proteins that share identity with known G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). One protein, Gpr4, shares limited sequence identity with the Dictyostelium discoideum cAMP receptor cAR1 and the Aspergillus nidulans GPCR protein GprH and also shares structural similarity with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae receptor Gpr1. gpr4 mutants exhibited reduced capsule production and mating defects, similar to gpa1 mutants, and exogenous cAMP suppressed both gpr4 mutant phenotypes. Epistasis analysis provides further evidence that Gpr4 functions upstream of the Gα subunit Gpa1. Gpr4-Gpr4 homomeric interactions were observed in the yeast two-hybrid assay, and Gpr4 was shown to physically interact with Gpa1 in the split-ubiquitin system. A Gpr4::DsRED fusion protein was localized to the plasma membrane and methionine was found to trigger receptor internalization. The analysis of intracellular cAMP levels showed that gpr4 mutants still respond to glucose but not to certain amino acids, such as methionine. Amino acids might serve as ligands for Gpr4 and could contribute to engage the cAMP-PKA pathway. Activation of the cAMP-PKA pathway by glucose and amino acids represents a nutrient coincidence detection system shared in other pathogenic fungi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-679
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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