We have investigated the stoichiometric relationship of proteins involved in beta-adrenergic-receptor-mediated signal transduction in isolated rat cardiac myocytes. These cells contain about 2.1 x 10(5) beta-adrenergic receptors per cell, as determined by radio-ligand-binding assays. We have assessed the amount of Gs alpha present in myocyte membranes by immunoblotting using a purified glutathione S-transferase-Gs alpha fusion protein as a standard for quantification. By this method, we determined that cardiac myocytes contain about 35 x 10(6) and 12 x 10(6) molecules per cell of the 45 and 52 kDa forms of Gs alpha, respectively. [3H]Forskolin binding assays were used to assess the formation of high-affinity forskolin binding sites representing Gs alpha-adenylate cyclase complexes occurring in response to Gs alpha activation. Quantification of the adenylate cyclase complexes was facilitated by the permeabilization of cells with saponin. The addition of isoprenaline (isoproterenol) and guanosine 5′-[gamma-thio]trisphosphate to saponin-permeabilized myocytes results in the formation of 6 x 10(5) Gs alpha-adenylate cyclase complexes. Taken together, the data presented here demonstrate that, in a physiologically relevant setting, G-protein is present in large stoichiometric excess relative to both receptor and effector. In addition, we show that, overall, only modest signal amplification occurs between receptor and adenylate cyclase. Thus adenylate cyclase (rather than Gs) is the component distal to receptor that limits agonist-mediated increases in cyclic AMP production. Although limited data are as yet available for other G-protein-regulated effectors, we hypothesize that the stoichiometry of signalling components and the extent of signal amplification described for the beta-adrenergic response pathway will be applicable to other G-protein-coupled hormone receptor systems.

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