G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are responsible for the majority of cellular responses to hormones and neurotransmitters as well as the senses of sight, olfaction and taste. The paradigm of GPCR signalling is the activation of a heterotrimeric GTP binding protein (G protein) by an agonist-occupied receptor. The β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) activation of Gs, the stimulatory G protein for adenylyl cyclase, has long been a model system for GPCR signalling. Here we present the crystal structure of the active state ternary complex composed of agonist-occupied monomeric β2AR and nucleotide-free Gs heterotrimer. The principal interactions between the β2AR and Gs involve the amino- and carboxy-terminal α-helices of Gs, with conformational changes propagating to the nucleotide-binding pocket. The largest conformational changes in the β2AR include a 14 Å outward movement at the cytoplasmic end of transmembrane segment 6 (TM6) and an α-helical extension of the cytoplasmic end of TM5. The most surprising observation is a major displacement of the α-helical domain of Gαs relative to the Ras-like GTPase domain. This crystal structure represents the first high-resolution view of transmembrane signalling by a GPCR.

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Protein Data Bank

Data deposits

Coordinates and structure factors for the β2AR–Gs complex are deposited in the Protein Data Bank (accession code 3SN6).


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We acknowledge support from National Institutes of Health Grants NS028471 (B.K.K.) and GM083118 (B.K.K. and R.K.S.), GM56169 (W.I.W.), P01 GM75913 (S.H.G), T32-GM008270 and P60DK-20572 (R.K.S.), GM75915, P50GM073210 and U54GM094599 (M.C.), Science Foundation Ireland (07/IN.1/B1836) and FP7 COST Action CM0902 (M.C.),the Mathers Foundation (B.K.K. and W.I.W.), the Lundbeck Foundation (Junior Group Leader Fellowship, S.G.F.R.), the University of Michigan Biomedical Sciences Scholars Program (R.K.S.), the Fund for Scientific Research of Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen) and the Institute for the encouragement of Scientific Research and Innovation of Brussels (ISRIB) (E.P. and J.S.), The Danish Council for Independent Research, Medical Sciences (J.M.M.). We thank D. Grayson and A. Coughlan for help with lipid synthesis.

Author information

Author notes

    • Søren G. F. Rasmussen
    •  & Brian T. DeVree

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Søren G. F. Rasmussen
    • , Yaozhong Zou
    • , Andrew C. Kruse
    • , Ka Young Chung
    • , Tong Sun Kobilka
    • , Foon Sun Thian
    • , Jesper M. Mathiesen
    • , William I. Weis
    •  & Brian K. Kobilka
  2. Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, The Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark

    • Søren G. F. Rasmussen
  3. Department of Pharmacology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Brian T. DeVree
    • , Diane Calinski
    •  & Roger K. Sunahara
  4. Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • Pil Seok Chae
    •  & Samuel H. Gellman
  5. Department of Molecular and Cellular Interactions, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, B-1050 Brussel, Belgium

    • Els Pardon
    •  & Jan Steyaert
  6. Structural Biology Brussels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium

    • Els Pardon
    •  & Jan Steyaert
  7. Membrane Structural and Functional Biology Group, Schools of Medicine and Biochemistry & Immunology, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland

    • Syed T. A. Shah
    • , Joseph A. Lyons
    •  & Martin Caffrey
  8. Life Sciences Institute and Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Georgios Skiniotis
  9. Department of Structural Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • William I. Weis


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S.G.F.R. performed the final stages of β2AR purification; assisted with β2AR and Gs protein virus production and expression in insect cell cultures; worked out conditions to form and stabilize the β2AR–Gs complex following screening, identification and characterization of the BI-167107 agonist and MNG-3 detergent; developed the β2AR–Gs complex purification strategy with B.K.K. and characterized the stability of the complex under a variety of conditions; purified and analysed all preparations of the β2AR–Gs complex used for crystallography, DXMS and electron microscopy studies, immunization, and nanobody selection; expressed and purified nanobodies and characterized β2AR–Gs–Nb binding by size exclusion chromatography; set up crystallization trials in detergent solution, bicelles and lipidic cubic phase; crystallized the T4L–β2AR–Gs, T4L–β2AR–Gs–Nb37 and T4L–β2AR–Gs–Nb35 complexes; optimized crystallization conditions and grew crystals for data collection; assisted with data collection and manuscript preparation. B.T.D. managed Gs heterotrimer subunit virus production and titration; expressed and purified Gs protein; with R.K.S. he identified the use of apyrase in forming the β2AR–Gs complex and foscarnet/pyrophosphate during crystallogenesis; reconstituted the β2AR–Gs complex and receptor alone in high density lipoprotein particles which were used for the initial nanobody selection. He assisted with data collection. Y.Z. designed, generated and optimized the T4L–β2AR fusion protein, characterized its expression and functional properties, and prepared baculovirus for large scale expression. A.C.K. collected crystals, collected and processed diffraction data, solved and refined the structure, and assisted with manuscript preparation. K.Y.C. developed the cross-linking conditions for the purified β2AR–Gs complex used for immunization of llamas. E.P. performed llama immunization, cloned and expressed nanobodies and performed initial selections. J.S. supervised nanobody production. D.C. assisted with Gs heterotrimer expression and purification. J.M.M. generated the β2AR–Gsα peptide fusion construct, expressed it in insect cell membranes and performed competition binding experiments. F.S.T. expressed β2AR in insect cell cultures and with T.S.K. performed the initial stage of β2AR purification. S.T.A.S., J.A.L. and M.C. provided the 7.7 MAG lipid and helpful suggestions for lipidic mesophase crystallization using this lipid. P.S.C. and S.H.G. provided MNG-3 detergent for stabilization of the β2AR–Gs complex. G.S. provided the essential feedback from the electron microscopy studies that helped guide the crystallization effort. W.I.W. oversaw data processing, structure determination and refinement. R.K.S. supervised Gs protein production, provided valuable ideas and insights into Gs structure and function, and assisted with data collection and manuscript preparation. B.K.K. was responsible for overall project strategy and management, harvested crystals and assisted with collection of diffraction data, and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Roger K. Sunahara or Brian K. Kobilka.

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