Recycling of the mu opioid receptor to the plasma membrane after endocytosis promotes rapid resensitization of signal transduction, whereas targeting of the delta opioid receptor (DOR) to lysosomes causes proteolytic down-regulation. We identified a protein that binds preferentially to the cytoplasmic tail of the DOR as a candidate heterotrimeric GTP-binding protein (G protein)-coupled receptor-associated sorting protein (GASP). Disruption of the DOR-GASP interaction through receptor mutation or overexpression of a dominant negative fragment of GASP inhibited receptor trafficking to lysosomes and promoted recycling. The GASP family of proteins may modulate lysosomal sorting and functional down-regulation of a variety of G protein-coupled receptors.
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