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Receptor desensitization is a universal mechanism to turn off a biological response; in this process, the ability of a physiological trigger to activate a cell is lost despite the continued presence of the stimulus. Receptor desensitization of G-protein-coupled receptors involves uncoupling of the receptor from its G-protein or second-messenger pathway followed by receptor internalization. G-protein-coupled cysteinyl leukotriene type I (CysLT1) receptors regulate immune-cell function and CysLT1 receptors are an established therapeutic target for allergies, including asthma. Desensitization of CysLT1 receptors arises predominantly from protein-kinase-C-dependent phosphorylation of three serine residues in the receptor carboxy terminus. Physiological concentrations of the receptor agonist leukotriene C(4) (LTC(4)) evoke repetitive cytoplasmic Ca(2+) oscillations, reflecting regenerative Ca(2+) release from stores, which is sustained by Ca(2+) entry through store-operated calcium-release-activated calcium (CRAC) channels. CRAC channels are tightly linked to expression of the transcription factor c-fos, a regulator of numerous genes important to cell growth and development. Here we show that abolishing leukotriene receptor desensitization suppresses agonist-driven gene expression in a rat cell line. Mechanistically, stimulation of non-desensitizing receptors evoked prolonged inositol-trisphosphate-mediated Ca(2+) release, which led to accelerated Ca(2+)-dependent slow inactivation of CRAC channels and a subsequent loss of excitation-transcription coupling. Hence, rather than serving to turn off a biological response, reversible desensitization of a Ca(2+) mobilizing receptor acts as an 'on' switch, sustaining long-term signalling in the immune system.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





111 - 115


Animals, Calcium, Calcium Signaling, Cell Line, Cell Line, Tumor, Cytoplasm, Down-Regulation, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Leukotriene C4, Mast Cells, Phosphoserine, Protein Kinase C, Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos, Rats, Receptors, Leukotriene, Thapsigargin