Complement factor 5a (C5a) is an anaphylatoxin that acts by binding to a G protein-coupled receptor, the C5aR. The relative orientation of this ligand-receptor pair is investigated here using the novel technique of disulfide trapping by random mutagenesis (DTRM) and molecular modeling. In the DTRM technique, an unpaired cysteine is introduced in the ligand, and a library of randomly mutagenized receptors is screened to identify mutants that introduce a cysteine at a position in the receptor that allows functional interactions with the ligand. By repeating this analysis at six positions of C5a, we identify six unique sets of intermolecular interactions for the C5a-C5aR complex, which are then compared with an independently developed computational three-dimensional model of the complex. This analysis reveals that the interface of the receptor N terminus with the cysteine-containing ligand molecules is selected from a variety of possible receptor conformations that exist in dynamic equilibrium. In contrast, DTRM identifies a single position in the second extracellular loop of the receptor that interacts specifically with a cysteine probe placed in the C-terminal tail of the C5a ligand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7763-7775
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 21 2008


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