Investigating the role of orphan GPR50 in normal brain function and mental illness
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G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form a link between the cell and their environment when signaling pathways are activated upon ligand binding. However, the ligands and functions for many GPCRs remain to be determined. G protein-coupled receptor 50 (GPR50) is one such orphan, and its exact role is yet unknown. There is however emerging functional and genetic evidence suggesting a function for GPR50 in psychiatric illness and lipid metabolism. It was hypothesised that investigating GPR50’s protein-protein interactions would lead to a greater understanding of the role of GPR50 in normal brain functioning and in mental illness. Putative protein interactors were initially isolated by a yeast two-hybid study and were further tested here. To address GPR50’s links to mental illness, the GPR50∆502-505 deletion variant associated with mood disorders was also investigated. To test this hypothesis I sought to confirm some of the key yeast two-hybrid interactions. Using co-immunoprecipitation and immunocytochemistry the interaction of GPR50 with reticulon family members Nogo-A, Nogo-C and RTN3, and with cell-cell adhesion molecule CDH8 and lipid-associated protein ABCA2 were validated. In order to identify the location of interactions, subcellular fractionation of mouse brain and rt-PCR and immunohistochemistry in developing and adult mouse brain were performed. GPR50 and several interactors were found to be enriched at the synapse by subcellular fractionation of whole adult brain, and at embryonic day 18 (E18) and 5 weeks by rt-PCR. Colocalisation of GPR50 and interactors was found in the amygdala, hypothalamus, cortex and specific brain stem nuclei by immunohistochemistry. The discovery of GPR50 expression in noradrenergic, serotonergic and dopaminergic nuclei in the adult brain stem suggests a further role for GPR50 in neurotransmitter signaling and stress. To investigate the function of GPR50 two assays were performed that measure processes which are known to be affected by Nogo and RTN3: The first assay was a neurite outgrowth assay in Neuroscreen-1 cells, a PC12 cell clone. A significant increase in neurite length was detected after transient overexpression of GPR50 and this effect was increased in the GPR50∆502-505/T532A variant. Additionally GPR50-overexpression resulted in an increase in filopodia formation suggesting a role in actin dynamics. As a second functional assay in vitro BACE1 activity assays were performed in HEK293 cells. GPR50 but not GPR50∆502-505/T532A overexpression resulted in a significant increase in BACE1 activity. Lastly a final series of pilot experiments were performed to gain insight into the secondary structure of the C-terminal domain and the effects of the polymorphisms on structure. The 35kDa GPR50 C-terminal domain was purified and Circular Dichroism studies indicated a predominantly unstructured protein with increased a- helical content in the GPR50∆502-505 variant. The results in this thesis indicate a role for GPR50 in neuronal development and synaptic functioning. The results also strengthen an association with major mental illness, with links to several disease mechanisms.