Endocrine & Neuropharmacology

Dr Karen Gregory

Dr Karen J Gregory
ARC Future Fellow 2017-2021
Lab Head
Email: karen.gregory@monash.edu

Dr Katie Leach

Project areas

Research focus

Class C G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) include receptors for neurotransmitters (e.g. GABAB receptor), amino acids (metabotropic glutamate receptors, taste receptors), and cations (calcium-sensing receptor). We are interested in how endogenous and small molecule ligands regulate the activity of this protein family, with a particular focus on allosteric ligands that bind to sites distinct from those of endogenous ligands. Indeed, the first allosteric ligand to make it into the clinic, cinacalcet (SensiparTM), interacts with the calcium-sensing receptor. Our research falls into two main therapeutic areas: metabolic, and neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders.

Allosteric modulation and biased agonism at Class C GPCRs

Class G GPCR bias agonism
Figure 1: Class C GPCRs are large cell surface proteins that form dimers and engender bias by binding endogenous and exogenous agonists and allosteric modulators. Model adapted from image in Wu et al., Science 2014.

Most Class C GPCRs are activated by more than one endogenous agonist, as well as endogenous and synthetic allosteric ligands. Different ligands binding to the same receptor can give rise to distinct physiological effects via a phenomenon called 'biased agonism'.

Biased agonism arises when different ligands stabilise distinct GPCR conformations, with each conformation triggering only a subset of the available intracellular effectors, at the exclusion of others. Given that allosteric ligands stabilise novel conformations by binding to sites distinct from those utilised by orthosteric ligands, there is an even greater likelihood that they will engender biased agonism.

Moreover, the receptor conformations stabilised by the simultaneous occupation of a single receptor with two or more ligands are likely to be different to those stabilised by either ligand alone. This raises the possibility of tailoring therapies to promote 'good' and avoid 'bad' effects mediated by the same receptor.

We are exploring how signalling, trafficking and regulation of Class C GPCRs is altered by different endogenous stimuli, synthetic small molecule ligands and naturally occurring mutations. To achieve this, we use recombinant cell lines and primary cultures. These studies seek to elucidate how distinct receptor behaviours contribute to the overall (patho)physiology of Class C GPCRs. This information will inform novel drug screening approaches. Indeed, our work seeks to lead to the development of more effective therapies for a wide range of disorders.

Structural biology of Class C GPCRs

Class C GPCR
Figure 2: Class C GPCR structural biology will aid structure-based drug discovery.

Rational drug discovery approaches require a precise understanding of the structural basis of drug-receptor interactions and drug-stabilised protein conformations. Moreover, protein structural insights can reveal novel drug binding pockets that may be selectively targeted.

Current crystal structures for Class C GPCRs have been solved with significant protein engineering, including truncations, addition of tags and thermostabilising mutations. There remains a critical need to understand how structure is related to function within the context of full length wild type receptors.

In order to realise this potential our group is:

  1. Developing and validating novel chemical tools to facilitate structural studies
  2. Engineering Class C GPCRs to enable purification and structure elucidation
  3. Exploring the structural basis of biased agonism and allosterism through site-directed mutagenesis
  4. Applying advanced computational methods to virtually identify novel chemical entities

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Class C GPCR biology lab members


Ms. Sabine Albold – Research Assistant

Dr Aaron De Bono – Research Fellow (medicinal chemistry)

Dr Amy Chen – Research Fellow (molecular pharmacology)

Dr Shane Hellyer – Research Fellow (molecular pharmacology)

Dr Tracy Josephs – Research Fellow (biochemistry)

Dr Andrew Keller – Research Fellow (structural biology)

Ms. Jiayin Diao – PhD candidate (2017 - 2021)

Ms. Phuc Trinh – PhD candidate (2017 - 2021)

Mr. Muhammad A. Razzak – PhD candidate (2018 - 2022)

Recent past members:

Dr Kathy Sengmany – PhD completion 2018

Dr Elham Khajehali – PhD completion 2015, Research Fellow 2016

Ms. Alisha Panwar  – BPharmSc Honours student 2016

Mr. Taide Wang – BBiomedSc Honours student 2016

Ms. Vyvyan Mai – BPharmSc Honours student 2015

Mr. Aaron Townley – BPharmSc Honours student 2015

Mr. Junaid Singh – BSc Honours student 2014

Mr. Vinesh Patel – MPharm (UK) 2014 (final year project)

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Recent relevant publications

Research papers

Sengmany K, Hellyer SD, Albold S, Wang T, Conn PJ, May LT, Christopoulos A, Leach K, Gregory KJ (2019) “Kinetic and system bias as drivers of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 allosteric modulator pharmacology” Neuropharmacology 149: 83-96.

Chen ANY, Hellyer SD, Trinh PNH, Leach K, Gregory KJ (2019) “Identification of monellin as the first naturally derived proteinaceous allosteric agonist of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5” Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. Apr 14. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.13239

Mun HC, Leach K, Conigrave AD (2019) “L-Amino Acids Promote Calcitonin Release via a Calcium-Sensing Receptor: Gq/11-Mediated Pathway in Human C-Cells” Endocrinology 160(7): 1590-1599.

Hellyer SD, Albold S, Wang T, Chen ANY, May LT, Leach K, Gregory KJ (2018) “"Selective" Class C G Protein-Coupled Receptor Modulators Are Neutral or Biased mGlu5 Allosteric Ligands” Mol Pharmacol 93(5): 504-514.

Keller AN, Kufareva I, Josephs TM, Diao J, Mai VT, Conigrave AD, Christopoulos A, Gregory KJ, Leach K (2018) “Identification of Global and Ligand-Specific Calcium Sensing Receptor Activation Mechanisms” Mol Pharmacol 93(6): 619-630.

Diepenhorst NA, Leach K, Keller AN, Rueda P, Cook AE, Pierce TL, Nowell C, Pastoureau P, Sabatini M, Summers RJ, Charman WN, Sexton PM, Christopoulos A, Langmead CJ (2018) “Divergent effects of strontium and calcium-sensing receptor positive allosteric modulators (calcimimetics) on human osteoclast activity” Br J Pharmacol 175(21): 4095-4108.

Sengmany K, Singh J, Stewart GD, Conn PJ, Christopoulos A, Gregory KJ (2017) “Biased allosteric agonism and modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5: Implications for optimizing preclinical neuroscience drug discovery” Neuropharmacology, 15:115:60-72.

Nickols HH, Yuh JP, Gregory KJ, Morrison RD, Bates BS, Stauffer SR, Emmitte KA, Bubser M, Peng W, Nedelcovych MT, Thompson A, Lv X, Xiang Z, Daniels JS, Niswender CM, Lindsley CW, Jones CK, Conn PJ (2016) “VU0477573: Partial Negative Allosteric Modulator of the Subtype 5 Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor with In Vivo Efficacy” J Pharmacol Exp Ther 356(1): 123-136.

Vecchio EA, Tan CY, Gregory KJ, Christopoulos A, White PJ, May LT (2016) “Ligand-Independent Adenosine A2B Receptor Constitutive Activity as a Promoter of Prostate Cancer Cell Proliferation” J Pharmacol Exp Ther 357(1): 36-44.

Gregory KJ, Velagaleti R, Thal DM, Brady RM, Christopoulos A, Conn PJ, Lapinsky DJ (2016) “Clickable Photoaffinity Ligands for Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 5 Based on Select Acetylenic Negative Allosteric Modulators” ACS Chem Biol., 11(7):1870-9.

Leach K, Gregory KJ, Kufareva I, Khajehali E, Cook, AE, Abagyan, Conigrave AD, Sexton PM and Christopoulos A (2016) “Towards a structural understanding of allosteric drugs at the human calcium-sensing receptor Cell Research, 26(5):574-92.

Thal DM, Sun B, Feng D, Nawaratne V, Leach K, Felder CC, Bures MG, Evans D, Weis WI, Bachhawat P, Kobilka TS, Sexton PM, Kobilka BK & Christopoulos A (2016) “Crystal structures of the M1 and M4 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors and insights into their allosteric modulation” Nature, 531:335-40.

Nickols HH, Yuh JP, Gregory KJ, Morrison RD, Bates BS, Stauffer SR, Emmitte KA, Bubser M, Peng W, Nedelcovych MT, Thompson A, Lv X, Xiang Z, Daniels JS, Niswender CM, Lindsley CW, Jones CK, Conn PJ (2016) “VU0477573: Partial Negative Allosteric Modulator of the Subtype 5 Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor with In Vivo Efficacy” J Pharmacol Exp Ther., 356(1):123-36.

Khajehali E, Malone DT, Glass M, Sexton PM, Christopoulos A & Leach K (2015) “Biased agonism and biased modulation at the CB1 cannabinoid receptor” Mol. Pharmacol. 88(2):368-379.

Rook JM, Xiang Z, Lv X, Ghoshal A, Dickerson JW, Bridges TM, Johnson KA, Foster DJ, Gregory KJ, Vinson PN, Thompson AD, Byun N, Collier RL, Bubser M, Nedelcovych MT, Gould RW, Stauffer SR, Daniels JS, Niswender CM, Lavreysen H, Mackie C, Conde-Ceide S, Alcazar J, Bartolome-Nebreda JM, Macdonald GJ, Talpos JC, Steckler T, Jones CK, Lindsley CW & Conn PJ (2015) “Biased mGlu5-positive allosteric modulators provide in vivo efficacy without potentiating mGlu5 modulation of NMDAR currents” Neuron 86(4):1029-1040.

Cook AE, Mistry SN, Gregory KJ, Furness SG, Sexton PM, Scammells PJ, Conigrave AD, Christopoulos A & Leach K (2014) “Biased allosteric modulation at the CaSR engendered by structurally diverse calcimimetics” Br. J. Pharmacol. 172(1):185-200.

Wu H, Wang C, Gregory KJ, Han GW, Cho HP, Xia Y, Niswender CM, Katrich V, Meiler J, Cherezov V, Conn PJ & Stevens RC (2014) “Structure of a class C GPCR metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 bound to an allosteric modulator” Science 344(6179)58-64.

Gregory KJ, Nguyen ED, Malosh C, Mendenhall JL, Zic JZ, Bates BS, Noetzel MJ, Squire EF, Turner EM, Rook JM, Emmitte KA, Stauffer SR, Lindsley CW, Meiler J & Conn PJ (2014) “Identification of specific ligand-receptor interactions that govern binding and cooperativity of diverse modulators to a common metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 allosteric site” ACS Chem. Neurosci. 5(4)282-295.

Yin S, Noetzel MJ, Johnson KA, Zamorano R, Jalan-Sakrikar N, Gregory KJ, Conn PJ & Niswender CM (2014) “Selective actions of novel allosteric modulators reveal functional heteromers of metabotropic glutamate receptors in the CNS” J. Neurosci. 34(1):79-94.

Avlani V, Ma W, Mun HC, Leach K, Delbridge L, Christopoulos A & Conigrave AD (2013) “Calcium-sensing receptor-dependent activation of CREB phosphorylation in HEK293 cells and human parathyroid cells” Am. J Physiol. Endocrino.l Metab. 304(10):E1097-104.

Leach K, Wen A, Cook AE, Conigrave AD, Sexton PM & Christopoulos A (2013) “Impact of clinically relevant mutations on the pharmacoregulation and signalling bias of the calcium-sensing receptor by positive and negative allosteric modulators”Endocrinology 154(3):1105-16.

Gregory KJ, Nguyen ED, Reiff SD, Squire EF, Stauffer SR, Lindsley CW, Meiler J & Conn PJ (2013) “Probing the Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 5 (mGlu5) Positive Allosteric Modulator (PAM) Binding Pocket: Discovery of Point Mutations That Engender a “Molecular Switch” in PAM Pharmacology” Mol. Pharmacol. 83(5):991-1006.

Leach K, Wen A, Davey AE, Conigrave AD, Sexton PM & Christopuolos A (2012) “Identification of molecular phenotypes and biased signalling induced by naturally occurring mutations of the human calcium-sensing receptor”Endocrinology 153(9)4304-16.

Davey AE, Leach K, Valant C, Conigrave AD, Sexton PM & Christopoulos A (2012) “Positive and negative allosteric modulators promote biased signalling at the calcium-sensing receptor” Endocrinology 153(3):1232-41.

Gregory KJ, Sexton PM, Tobin AB & Christopoulos A (2012) “Stimulus bias provides evidence for conformational constraints in the structure of a G protein-coupled receptor” J Biol Chem 287(44):37066-77.

Gregory KJ, Noetzel MJ, Rook JM, Vinson PJ, Stauffer SR, Rodriguez AL, Emmitte KA, Zhou Y, Chun AC, Felts AS, Chauder BA, Lindsley CW, Niswender CM & Conn PJ (2012) “Investigating mGlu5 allosteric modulator cooperativity, affinity and agonism: enriching structure-function studies and structure-activity relationships” Mol Pharmacol. 82(5):860-75.

Review papers

Gregory KJ (2019) “How an activation signal is transmitted through an excitatory receptor” Nature 566(7742): 42-43.

Trinh PNH, May LT, Leach K, Gregory KJ (2018) “Biased agonism and allosteric modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5” Clin Sci (Lond) 132(21): 2323-2338.

Leach K and Gregory KJ (2017) “Molecular insights into allosteric modulation of Class C G protein-coupled receptors” Pharmacol Res., 116:105-118.

Hellyer S, Leach K and Gregory KJ (2017) “Neurobiological insights and novel therapeutic opportunities for CNS disorders from mGlu receptor allosteric and biased modulation” Curr Opin Pharmacol. 32:49-55.

Lindsley CW, Emmitte KA, Hopkins CR, Bridges TM, Gregory KJ, Niswender CM, Conn PJ (2016) “Practical Strategies and Concepts in GPCR Allosteric Modulator Discovery: Recent Advances with Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors” Chem Rev., 116(11):6707-41

Sengmany K & Gregory KJ (2016) “Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5: molecular pharmacology, allosteric modulation and stimulus-bias” Br J Pharmacol 173(20):3001-17.

Leach K, Conigrave AD, Sexton PM & Christopoulos A (2015) “Towards tissue-specific pharmacology: insights from the calcium-sensing receptor as a paradigm for GPCR (patho)physiological bias” Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 36(4):215-225.

Gregory KJ & Conn PJ (2015) “Molecular Insights into Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Allosteric Modulation” Mol Pharmacol 88(1):188-202.

Leach K, Sexton PM, Christopoulos A & Conigrave AD (2014) “Engendering biased signalling from the calcium-sensing receptor for the pharmacotherapy of diverse disorders” Br J Pharmacol. 171(5)1142-1155.

Gregory KJ, Dong EN, Meiler J & Conn PJ (2011) “Allosteric Modulation of Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors: Structural Insights and Therapeutic Potential” Neuropharmacol.60:66-81.

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Chemical and Structural biology of Class C GPCRs:

Dr Ben Capuano – Medicinal Chemistry, MIPS

Dr Irina Kufareva – University of California San Diego, USA

Associate Professor David J. Lapinsky – Duquesne University, USA

Professor Jens Meiler – Vanderbilt University, USA

Professor Patrick Sexton – DDB, MIPS

Dr David Thal – DDB, MIPS

Dr Andrea Vernall - University of Otago, NZ.

Associate Professor Denise Wootten - DDB, MIPS

Allosteric modulation and biased signalling of Class C GPCRs:

Professor Arthur Christopoulos – DDB, MIPS

Professor Arthur Conigrave – University of Sydney

Professor P. Jeffrey Conn – Vanderbilt Centre for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, USA

Dr Colleen M. Niswender – Vanderbilt Centre for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, USA

Physiological and pathophysiological roles for Class A and C GPCRs:

Dr Gursh Chana – Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne

Dr Lauren May - DDB, MIPS

Professor Stan Skafidas – Centre for Neural Engineering, University of Melbourne

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Current support:

ARC Future Fellowship (2017-2021) CIA: Karen Gregory “Exploring metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 bias, allostery and heteromers”

ARC Future Fellowship (2016-2020) CIA: Katie Leach “Understanding bias and allostery at the calcium sensing receptor”

ARC Discovery grant (2017-2019) CIA: Katie Leach, CIB: Karen J Gregory, CIC: Ben Capuano “Stabilising biased allosteric G protein-coupled receptor conformations”

NHMRC Project grant (2018-2020) CIA: Katie Leach, CIB: Karen J Gregory, CIC: Arthur D Conigrave, CID: Ben Capuano “Towards the rational design of calcium sensing receptor allosteric modulators for the treatment of osteoporosis and calcium handling disorders”

NHMRC Project grant (2017-2019) CIA: Karen J Gregory, CIB: Lauren T May, CIC: Andrea Vernall "Investigating the impact of coincident modulation of adenosine and glutamate receptors on neuronal activity - implications for CNS drug discovery"

NHMRC Project grant (2015-2017) CIA: Karen J Gregory “Biased allosteric modulators of metabotropic glutamate receptors: novel therapeutic target for CNS disorders”

NHMRC Project grant (2015-2017) CIA: Katie Leach, CIB: Arthur Conigrave, CIC: Rebecca Mason “Engendering biased signalling at the human calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) to correct pathophysiology”

Completed support:

Monash University “Women in Research” grant (2016) Katie Leach

Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences lab start-up funds (2013-2015)

NHMRC Overseas Biomedical Research Fellowship (2011 – 2015) Karen J Gregory “Enhancement of glutamate signaling as a novel approach to treat schizophrenia and cognitive disorders”

Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences seed grant (2014) Katie Leach

NHMRC project grant (2011-2014) Katie Leach “Allosteric modulation and biased signaling at the calcium sensing receptor”

NARSAD – Maltz Young Investigator (2011-2013): Karen J Gregory “Positive allosteric modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5: a novel approach for the treatment of schizophrenia”

American Australian Association Merck Co. Foundation Fellow (2010) Karen J Gregory “Positive allosteric modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptor 5: a novel approach for the treatment of schizophrenia and cognitive disorders”

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