N-formyl peptide receptors cluster in an active raft-associated state prior to phosphorylation.
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In response to ligand binding, G protein-coupled receptors undergo phosphorylation and activate cellular internalization machinery. An important component of this process is the concentration of receptors into clusters on the plasma membrane. Aside from organizing the receptor in anticipation of internalization, little is known of the function of ligand-mediated G protein-coupled receptor clustering, which has traditionally been thought of as being a phosphorylation-dependent event prior to receptor internalization. We now report that following receptor activation, the N-formyl peptide receptor (FPR) forms distinct membrane clusters prior to its association with arrestin. To determine whether this clustering is dependent upon receptor phosphorylation, we used a mutant form of the FPR, DeltaST-FPR, which lacks all phosphorylation sites in the carboxyl-terminal domain. We found that activation of the signaling-competent DeltaST-FPR resulted in rapid receptor clustering on the plasma membrane independent of Gi protein activation. This clustering required receptor activation since the D71A mutant receptor, which binds ligand but is incapable of transitioning to an active state, failed to induce receptor clustering. Furthermore we demonstrated that FPR-mediated clustering and signaling were cholesterol-dependent processes, suggesting that translocation of the active receptor to lipid rafts may be required for maximal signaling activity. Finally we showed that FPR stimulation in the absence of receptor phosphorylation resulted in translocation of FPR to GM1-rich clusters. Our results demonstrate for the first time that formation of a clustered activated receptor state precedes receptor phosphorylation, arrestin binding, and internalization.