Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



PNAS 2023 Vol. 120 No. 11 e2217604120.


Used by permission.


The L- to D-amino acid residue isomerization of neuropeptides is an understudied post-translational modification found in animals across several phyla. Despite its physiological importance, little information is available regarding the impact of endogenous peptide isomerization on receptor recognition and activation. As a result, the full roles peptide isomerization play in biology are not well understood. Here, we identify that the Aplysia allatotropin-related peptide (ATRP) signaling system utilizes L- to D-residue isomerization of one amino acid residue in the neuropeptide ligand to modulate selectivity between two distinct G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). We first identified a novel receptor for ATRP that is selective for the D2-ATRP form, which bears a single D-phenylalanine residue at position 2. Using cell-based receptor activation experiments, we then characterized the stereoselectivity of the two known ATRP receptors for both endogenous ATRP diastereomers, as well as for homologous toxin peptides from a carnivorous predator. We found that the ATRP system displayed dual signaling through both the Gαq and Gαs pathways, and each receptor was selectively activated by one naturally occurring ligand diastereomer over the other. Overall, our results provide insights into an unexplored mechanism by which nature regulates intercellular communication. Given the challenges in detecting L- to D-residue isomerization from complex mixtures de novo and in identifying receptors for novel neuropeptides, it is likely that other neuropeptide-receptor systems may also utilize changes in stereochemistry to modulate receptor selectivity in a manner similar to that discovered here.