Recent research has unveiled the complexity of mechanisms involved in G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) functioning in which receptor dimerization/oligomerization may play an important role. Although the first high-resolution X-ray structure for a likely functional chemokine receptor dimer has been deposited in the Protein Data Bank, the interactions and mechanisms of dimer formation are not yet fully understood. In this respect, computational methods play a key role for predicting accurate GPCR complexes. This review outlines computational approaches focusing on sequence- and structure-based methodologies as well as discusses their advantages and limitations. Sequence-based approaches that search for possible protein-protein interfaces in GPCR complexes have been applied with success in several studies, but did not yield always consistent results. Structure-based methodologies are a potent complement to sequence-based approaches. For instance, protein-protein docking is a valuable method especially when guided by experimental constraints. Some disadvantages like limited receptor flexibility and non-consideration of the membrane environment have to be taken into account. Molecular dynamics simulation can overcome these drawbacks giving a detailed description of conformational changes in a native-like membrane.
Successful prediction of GPCR complexes using computational approaches combined with experimental efforts may help to understand the role of dimeric/oligomeric GPCR complexes for fine-tuning receptor signaling. Moreover, since such GPCR complexes have attracted interest as potential drug target for diverse diseases, unveiling molecular determinants of dimerization/oligomerization can provide important implications for drug discovery.
Keywords: G protein-coupled receptor dimers, molecular dynamics, protein-protein docking, sequence-based methods, structure-based methods, transmembrane proteins, GPCR, chemokine CXCR4 receptor, protein-protein interfaces, AFM