The ghrelin receptor (GhrelinR) and its related orphan GPR39 each display constitutive signaling, but only GhrelinRs undergo basal internalization. Here we investigate these differences by considering the roles of the C tail receptor domains for constitutive internalization and activity. Furthermore the interaction between phosphorylated receptors and beta-arrestin adaptor proteins has been examined. Replacement of the FLAG-tagged GhrelinR C tail with the equivalent GPR39 domain (GhR-39 chimera) preserved G(q) signaling. However in contrast to the GhrelinR, GhR-39 receptors exhibited no basal and substantially decreased agonist-induced internalization in transiently transfected HEK293 cells. Internalized GhrelinR and GhR-39 were predominantly localized to recycling compartments, identified with transferrin and the monomeric G proteins Rab5 and Rab11. Both the inverse agonist [d-Arg(1), d-Phe(5), d-Trp(7,9), Leu(11)] substance P and a naturally occurring mutant GhrelinR (A204E) with eliminated constitutive activity inhibited basal GhrelinR internalization. Surprisingly, we found that noninternalizing GPR39 was highly phosphorylated and that basal and agonist-induced phosphorylation of the GhR-39 chimera was elevated compared with GhrelinRs. Moreover, basal GhrelinR endocytosis occurred without significant phosphorylation, and it was not prevented by cotransfection of a dominant-negative beta-arrestin1(319-418) fragment or by expression in beta-arrestin1/2 double-knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts. In contrast, agonist-stimulated GhrelinRs recruited the clathrin adaptor green fluorescent protein-tagged beta-arrestin2 to endosomes, coincident with increased receptor phosphorylation. Thus, GhrelinR internalization to recycling compartments depends on C-terminal motifs and constitutive activity, but the high levels of GPR39 phosphorylation, and of the GhR-39 chimera, are not sufficient to drive endocytosis. In addition, basal GhrelinR internalization occurs independently of beta-arrestins.
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