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Title: Molecular mechanisms of Hedgehog signal transduction by the G-protein coupled receptor smoothened
Author: Byrne, Eamon
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 4028
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The Hedgehog signalling pathway is an essential developmental pathway present in all bilaterians that is involved in embryogenesis, body patterning and stem cell homeostasis. Dysregulation of the Hh pathway leads to various kinds of cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and medulloblastoma. Smoothened (SMO), a Frizzled-type G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR), is the essential transmembrane signal transducer within the Hh pathway, conveying the signal from the upstream transmembrane protein, Patched1 (Ptc1), to the downstream intracellular proteins. The mechanisms by which SMO transmits the Hh signal from the extracellular environment, through the plasma membrane and to the intracellular proteins are not known. In this thesis, I present my work into the structural and functional characterisation of the extracellular and transmembrane domains (TMD) of human SMO in order to better understand the molecular mechanisms of its signal transduction. The extracellular region of SMO contains a highly conserved cysteine-rich domain (CRD) and a linker domain (LD). I present the first crystal structure of the CRD, LD and TMD of SMO, which is also the first crystal structure of a GPCR with a large functional extracellular domain. This structure revealed a domain architecture for SMO that enables regulation of its transmembrane domain by its extracellular domains. It also revealed a cholesterol molecule bound to the CRD, which we subsequently determined to be a new endogenous small-molecule agonist for SMO. I present five further structures of SMO bound to different small molecule agonists and antagonists. Together, these structures demonstrate that the position of the CRD relative to the TMD reflects the activation state of SMO. We also generated nanobodies against the extracellular region of SMO in order to stabilise its conformation. These studies not only improve our understanding of the workings of a key transmembrane protein within a fundamental signalling pathway but will also aid efforts to develop better therapeutics for an important cancer target.
Supervisor: Siebold, Christian Sponsor: Nuffield Department of Medicine
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hedgehog signalling pathway ; structural biology ; Smoothened ; GPCR ; x-ray crystallography