NT (neurotensin) is an endogenous tridecapeptide neurotransmitter found in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. One receptor for NT, NTS1, belongs to the GPCR (G-protein-coupled receptor) superfamily, has seven putative transmembrane domains, and is being studied by a range of single-molecule, functional and structural approaches. To enable biophysical characterization, sufficient quantities of the receptor need to be expressed and purified in an active form. To this end, rat NTS1 has been expressed in Escherichia coli in an active ligand-binding form at the cell membrane and purified in sufficient amounts for structural biology studies either with or without fluorescent protein [YFP (yellow fluorescent protein) and CFP (cyan fluorescent protein)] fusions. Ligand binding has been demonstrated in a novel SPR (surface plasmon resonance) approach, as well as by conventional radioligand binding measurements. These improvements in production of NTS1 now open up the possibility of direct structural studies, such as solid-state NMR to interrogate the NT-binding site, EM (electron microscopy), and X-ray crystallography and NMR.

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