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A systems view of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling in its native environment is central to the development of GPCR therapeutics with fewer side effects. Using the kappa opioid receptor (KOR) as a model, we employed high-throughput phosphoproteomics to investigate signaling induced by structurally diverse agonists in five mouse brain regions. Quantification of 50,000 different phosphosites provided a systems view of KOR in vivo signaling, revealing novel mechanisms of drug action. Thus, we discovered enrichment of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway by U-50,488H, an agonist causing aversion, which is a typical KOR-mediated side effect. Consequently, mTOR inhibition during KOR activation abolished aversion while preserving beneficial antinociceptive and anticonvulsant effects. Our results establish high-throughput phosphoproteomics as a general strategy to investigate GPCR in vivo signaling, enabling prediction and modulation of behavioral outcomes.

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Medicinal chemists are extremely familiar with G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), and it’s a safe bet that any pretty much any neurotransmitter (for example) that can be named by the general public is a GPCR ligand, too. Serotonin, dopamine, histamine...