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The Science Behind G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) and Their Accurate Visual Representation in Scientific Research

Amy Sojka, Kevin Brennan, Evelyn Maizels, Christine Young


G Protein-Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) are transmembrane (TM) proteins that span the cell membrane seven times, and contain intracellular and extracellular domains, comprised of connecting loops, as well as terminal extension sequences. GPCRs bind ligands within their transmembrane and/or extracellular domains. Ligand binding elicits conformational changes that initiate downstream intracellular signaling events through arrestins and G proteins. GPCRs play central roles in many physiological processes, from sensory to neurological, cardiovascular, endocrine, and reproductive functions. This paper strives to provide an entry point to current GPCR science, and to identify visual approaches to communicate select aspects of GPCR structure and function with clarity and accuracy. The overall GPCR structure, primary sequence and the implications of sequence for membrane topology, ligand binding and helical rearrangements accompanying activation are considered and discussed in the context of visualization strategies, including two-dimensional topological diagrams, three-dimensional representations, and common errors that arise from these representation.

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