Open Access Open Badges Research article

The asthma candidate gene NPSR1 mediates isoform specific downstream signalling

Christina Orsmark Pietras1, Johanna Vendelin2, Francesca Anedda13, Sara Bruce1, Mikael Adner4, Lilli Sundman2, Ville Pulkkinen2, Harri Alenius5, Mauro D'Amato1, Cilla Söderhäll1 and Juha Kere126*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Department of Medical Genetics, University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, Helsinki, Finland

3 Istituto di Neurogenetica e Neurofarmacologica, Consiglio Nazionale della Ricerche, Monserrato, Italy

4 The National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Division of Physiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Unit of Excellence for Immunotoxicology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland

6 Science for Life Laboratory, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:39  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-39

Published: 27 June 2011



Neuropeptide S Receptor 1 (NPSR1, GPRA, GPR154) was first identified as an asthma candidate gene through positional cloning and has since been replicated as an asthma and allergy susceptibility gene in several independent association studies. In humans, NPSR1 encodes two G protein-coupled receptor variants, NPSR1-A and NPSR1-B, with unique intracellular C-termini. Both isoforms show distinct expression pattern in asthmatic airways. Although NPSR1-A has been extensively studied, functional differences and properties of NPSR1-B have not yet been clearly examined. Our objective was to investigate downstream signalling properties of NPSR1-B and functional differences between NPSR1-A and NPSR1-B.


HEK-293 cells transiently overexpressing NPSR1-A or NPSR1-B were stimulated with the ligand neuropeptide S (NPS) and downstream signalling effects were monitored by genome-scale affymetrix expression-arrays. The results were verified by NPS concentration-response and time series analysis using qRT-PCR, cAMP and Ca2+ assays, and cAMP/PKA, MAPK/JNK and MAPK/ERK pathway specific reporter assays.


NPSR1-B signalled through the same pathways and regulated the same genes as NPSR1-A, but NPSR1-B yielded lower induction on effector genes than NPSR1-A, with one notable exception, CD69, a marker of regulatory T cells.


We conclude that NPSR1-B is regulating essentially identical set of genes as NPSR1-A, with few, but possibly important exceptions, and that NPSR1-A induces stronger signalling effects than NPSR1-B. Our findings suggest an isoform-specific link to pathogenetic processes in asthma and allergy.