Mammalian sensory systems detect sweet taste through the activation of a single heteromeric T1R2/T1R3 receptor belonging to class C G-protein-coupled receptors. Allosteric ligands are known to interact within the transmembrane domain, yet a complete view of receptor activation remains elusive. By combining site-directed mutagenesis with computational modeling, we investigate the structure and dynamics of the allosteric binding pocket of the T1R3 sweet-taste receptor in its apo form, and in the presence of an allosteric ligand, cyclamate. A novel positively charged residue at the extracellular loop 2 is shown to interact with the ligand. Molecular dynamics simulations capture significant differences in the behavior of a network of conserved residues with and without cyclamate, although they do not directly interact with the allosteric ligand. Structural models show that they adopt alternate conformations, associated with a conformational change in the transmembrane region. Site-directed mutagenesis confirms that these residues are unequivocally involved in the receptor function and the allosteric signaling mechanism of the sweet-taste receptor. Similar to a large portion of the transmembrane domain, they are highly conserved among mammals, suggesting an activation mechanism that is evolutionarily conserved. This work provides a structural basis for describing the dynamics of the receptor, and for the rational design of new sweet-taste modulators.

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