Affiliation: Department of Synthesis and Chemical Technology of Pharmaceutical Substances with Computer Modeling Lab, Faculty of Pharmacy with Division of Medical Analytics, Medical University of Lublin, 4A Chodzki St., PL-20093 Lublin, Poland.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) constitute one of the largest classes of cell surface receptors. GPCR biology has been a subject of widespread interest owing to the functional relevance of these receptors and their potential importance in the development of new drugs. At present, over 30% of all launched drugs target these receptors. GPCRs have been considered for a long time to function as monomeric entities and the idea of GPCR dimerization and oligomerization was initially accepted with disbelief. However, a significant amount of experimental and molecular modeling evidence accumulated during the last several years suggests that the process of GPCRs dimer or oligomer formation is a general phenomenon, in some cases even essential for receptor function. Among the many methods to study GPCR dimerization and oligomerization, modern biophysical techniques such as those based on resonance energy transfer (RET) and particularly bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) have played a leading role. RET methods are commonly applied as non-destructive indicators of specific protein-protein interactions (PPIs) in living cells. Data from numerous BRET experiments support the idea that the process of GPCR oligomerization may be relevant in many physiological and pathological conditions. The application of BRET to the study of GPCRs is not only limited to the assessment of receptor oligomerization but also expands to the investigation of the interactions of GPCRs with other proteins, including G proteins, G protein-coupled receptor kinases, β-arrestins or receptor tyrosine kinases, as well as to the characterization of GPCR activation and signaling. In this review, we briefly summarize the fundaments of BRET, discuss new trends in this technology and describe the wide range of applications of BRET to study GPCRs.