Novel Chimeric Polypeptides For Screening And Drug Discovery Purposes

Novel chimeric polypeptides for screening and drug discovery purposes

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to novel polypeptides and their use for screening and drug discovery. More specifically, the invention provides chimeric polypeptides comprising a membrane protein, in particular a GPC , fused to a binding domain, wherein the binding domain is directed against and/or specifically binds to said membrane protein. In particular, the chimeric polypeptides of the invention are single proteins wherein, in an intramolecular reaction, the binding domain stabilizes the membrane protein in a conformation of interest. Also provided are nucleic acid sequences encoding such chimeric polypeptides, cells capable of expressing such chimeric polypeptides as well as cellular compositions derived thereof. Also envisaged are screening methods for compounds using the chimeric polypeptides of the invention.

BACKGROUND

Drug discovery efforts generally focus on the identification of compounds that modulate - inhibit or enhance - the activity of the target of interest. Conventional lead identification efforts proceed via biochemical or cell based screening or in silico compound design. These methods have identified and validated a multitude of viable therapeutics in use today. However, as reflected by the high failure rate of new drug compounds (only an estimated 8% of phase I clinical therapeutics eventually gain Food and Drug Administration approval, at a conservative cost of $800 million per drug), many efforts are unsuccessful and often targets are abandoned once they are deemed undruggable (Lee et al. 2009). A considerable part of these failures are due to the fact that most biochemical or cell based assays are performed on targets in their prominent conformation, also referred to as the basal conformation. However, we now know that conformational flexibility is key to the function and the pharmacology of the majority of the current and future drug targets including GPCRs, ion channels, (nuclear) receptors, kinases and phosphatases. And for many of these targets, the most stable conformation - corresponding to the prominent structural species in the absence of ligands or accessory proteins (the basal conformation) - does not correspond to the druggable conformation to which a drug must bind to be most effective for the therapeutic indication.

Today, the most commonly targeted protein class for medicinal intervention are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), also called seven-transmembrane receptors (7TMRs). They play essential roles in physiological responses to a diverse set of ligands such as biogenic amines, amino acids, peptides, proteins, prostanoids, phospholipids, fatty acids, nucleosides, nucleotides, Ca2+ ions, odorants, bitter and sweet tastants, pheromones and protons (Heilker et al. 2009). Orthosteric ligands that act on a GPCR can induce a spectrum of effects on down-stream signaling pathways. In general, GPCRs require agonist binding for activation. Full agonists maximally activate the receptor. Partial agonists elicit a submaximal stimulation even at saturating concentrations. In some cases, a GPCR may exhibit basal activity towards a specific signaling pathway even in the absence of an agonist (constitutive activity). Inverse agonists can inhibit this basal activity. Notably, whereas neutral antagonists can inhibit binding of agonists, partial agonists, and inverse agonists at the orthosteric binding site of GPCRs, they do not alter the basal receptor activity. In recent years, advances have been made in the discovery of novel ligands for GPCRs that act at allosteric sites to regulate receptor function, including positive and negative allosteric modulators (PAMs and NAMs, respectively) and neutral ligands, which offer novel modes of action over orthosteric ligands (Christopoulos 2002).

It is now well established that GPCRs can signal through several distinct mechanisms including those mediated by G proteins or the multifunctional adaptor proteins β-arrestins (Rajagopal et al. 2010).

With the structures of several GPCRs solved in complex with various ligands including inverse agonists, antagonists and agonists (Cherezov et al. 2007, Rasmussen et al. 2011b, Rosenbaum et al. 2011,

Shimamura et al. 2011, Xu 2011, Granier et al. 2012, Haga et al. 2012, Hanson et al. 2012, Kruse et al.

2012, Manglik et al. 2012, Wu et al. 2012, Zhang et al. 2012) and the G-protein (Rasmussen et al.

2011a), we now know that GPCRs are conformationally complex molecules with specific conformations causing G protein activation. Of special significance in the context of this invention is the observation that in comparison to the basal conformation, only relatively small changes in the structure of the agonist binding pocket led to substantial movement (up to 14A) and rearrangements in three of the transmembrane segments (Lebon et al. 2012).

Mass-spectrometry-based strategies (Kahsai et al. 2011), biophysical analysis (Yao et al. 2006, Mary et al. 2012) and NMR spectroscopy (Liu et al. 2012; Bokoch et al. 2010) provide direct evidence for the presence of other distinct ligand-specific conformations that lead to arrestin mediated signalling. It follows that different ligands can have differential effects on the conformation and the diverse signaling and regulatory repertoire of a single receptor. The importance of these multiple conformational states is their pharmacological relevance. As illustrated in Figure 1, each of these receptor conformations can be considered as a separate therapeutic drug target because each of these conformations promotes distinct relative efficacies toward the different effector systems including G proteins and arrestins. Drug discovery approaches can take considerable advantage from capturing the target in a therapeutically relevant - 'druggable' - conformation. Stabilizing a receptor in a particular functional conformation would inherently freeze the receptor in a single, disease relevant druggable conformation revealing new structural features that are suitable for targeting with small molecules or biologicals and may enable the identification of compounds that are selective for that druggable conformation. The stabilization of a unique druggable conformation, including inactive states corresponding to effector systems below basal activity or particular functional states that activate individual effector systems could not only lead to compounds with better therapeutic efficacies but could also benefit the identification of compounds with less undesirable side effects that result from triggering undesired pathways (Galandrin et al. 2007).

Further to that, conformational flexibility is an issue in high-throughput screening (HTS) and fragment- based drug discovery (FBDD) (Lawson 2012). In HTS, issues of different conformations of a target can in some cases be overcome by using whole-system assays with a functional readout rather than reductionist recombinant systems assays (Kenakin, 2009; ajagopal et al, 2010). In FBDD however, whole-system assays cannot be used because of the low efficacy/potency of the initial hits, often requiring mM concentrations of the fragments for biological activity and causing toxicity. It follows that high-throughput primary screens would benefit considerably from target receptors that are stabilized in the desired functional conformation in the absence of ligands or accessory proteins. Access to such conformationally stabilized receptors would allow the identification of the subset of ligands that are specific for that conformation with its particular structural features (Figure 1). In this way, a first selection of the potentially biologically active compounds can be made using simple assessment of binding before establishing their efficacy profiles in a variety of (whole-system) signaling assays.

Conformational flexibility also obstructs structure based drug discovery starting from fragments. First, many of the potential hits of fragment-based screening (FBS) are not potent enough to quantitatively displace the conformational equilibrium into a single conformation of the protein-ligand complex that can be crystallized in a diffracting crystal. If a complex cannot be crystallized, soaking existing crystals of ligand-free protein with (small) ligands is often the method of choice to obtain crystals of the complex. However, if these ligands displace the conformational equilibrium of a conformationally complex protein, these induced conformational changes will in many cases destroy the crystals (Danley 2006) .

With the structures of the first GPCRs solved in 2007 (Rasmussen et al. 2007, Rosenbaum et al. 2007), we entered the new era of GPCR structural biology raising the possibility of applying structure-based approaches to GPC drug discovery efforts (Shoichet and Kobilka 2012). For a large number of GPCR drug targets relating to several therapeutic indications, the agonist-bound active-state is often the druggable conformation. Resolving the structure at high resolution of a GPCR in this therapeutically relevant 'druggable' conformation remains a challenge. Efforts to obtain an agonist-bound active-state GPCR structure have proven difficult due to the inherent instability of this state in the absence of a G protein. Structures of GPCRs in complex with full agonists have been solved but not without difficulties. First, natural agonists generally do not sufficiently stabilize the receptor for the formation of diffraction-quality crystals. In an attempt to solve this problem, agonists have been covalently bound to GPCRs for crystallization purposes. However, for example, the crystal structure of a covalent agonist- bound p2AR reveals a conformation closely resembling an inactive state rather than the active state with only little rearrangements in the transmembrane segments (Rosenbaum et al. 2011) (Lebon et al. 2012).

Another approach towards determining agonist-bound conformations of a GPCR is thermostabilization of the receptor via systematic mutagenesis followed by measuring increased thermostability in the presence of bound agonist (e.g. WO2008114020, WO2009071914, WO2010149964, WO2012098413). For example, thermostabilising mutations have been discovered for the agonist-bound A2AAR (Lebon et al. 2011), the agonist bound βΐ-adrenergic receptor (Warne et al. 2011) and the agonist bound neurotensin receptor (White et al. 2012). However the structures of these agonist bound stabilized receptors are likely not in the fully active conformation, judged on the small displacement of transmembrane helix 6. More important and in contrast to the active state that is stabilized by a G- protein or a G-protein mimic, these thermostabilized receptors show no significant increase in the affinities for their respective agonists (Serrano-Vega et al. 2008, Shibata et al. 2009, Lebon et al. 2011).

Only recently, it became possible to obtain structures of an agonist-bound active state of a GPCR, making use of conformationally selective Nanobodies (Xaperone™) that mimic G protein function and increase the affinity for agonists at the orthosteric site (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). Xaperones are useful tools to lock the structure of GPCRs in a therapeutically relevant conformation (Steyaert & Kobilka, 2011) and facilitate the discovery of drug candidates by increasing the sensitivity and selectivity of existing screening methods (WO2012007593). However, this technological approach also has its limitations. Because the binding of the agonist at the orthosteric site increases the affinity for the G- protein mimicking Xaperone™ at the allosteric intracellular side of the receptor and vice versa (Rasmussen et al. 2011b), the GPCR-Xaperone™ complex is much more stable in the presence of an agonist. It follows that a GPCR, a stabilizing Xaperone™ and agonist have to be co-crystallized to obtain crystals of the GPCR in its active conformation and that the invention described in WO2012007593 is not very well suited for structure based drug discovery approaches involving for example soaking of ligands in existing crystals because the agonist that has been used to grow the crystals will compete with the ligand that is soaked in subsequently.

Thus, the development of new methods that constitutively stabilize GPCRs in a particular druggable conformation, even in the absence of agonists, would be an important asset to improve drug discovery via compound screening and/or structure based drug design.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention essentially provides a drug target that is sta bilized in a therapeutically relevant conformation. Our novel approach captures the target in a conformation of interest to reveal novel structural features that are suitable for targeting with small molecules or biologicals for therapeutic intervention. The constitutive stabilization of a unique conformation of the drug target is obtained by fusing the drug target of interest with a conformation-selective binding domain, optionally separated by a linker, and is the result of an intramolecular reaction of both moieties within a single protein. The resulting fusion polypeptides, herein also referred to as chimeric polypeptides, are particularly interesting since they may have structural properties that differ significantly from the drug target in the non-chimeric form and as such may serve as novel innovative tools for the development of new, more potent or more selective drugs. It will be appreciated that while the invention has been exemplified with GPCRs, it is equally applicable to any membrane protein.

One key advantage of the chimeric polypeptides of the present invention is that a defined 1:1 stoichiometry of GPCR to binding domain is ensured in a single protein, forcing the physical proximity of the fusion partners, while maintaining the properties of the binding domain to sta bilize the receptor in a particular druggable conformation. To illustrate this, and without the purpose of being limitative, several genetic fusions of the gene segments encoding a GPCR and a conformation-selective Nanobody have been constructed (see Examples 1, 9, 13, 17, 20) and the pharmacological properties of the expressed GPCR-Nanobody fusion polypeptides have been analysed (see Examples 6, 8, 12, 16, 19, 22, 24-25). We show that the properties of particular panels of Nanobodies, such as those that stabilize active conformations of GPCRs or those that stabilize inactive conformations of GPCRs, are maintained in such 1: 1 genetic fusions. For example, the β2 adrenergic receptor ( 2AR) fused to N b80, a Nanobody that mimics G protein function and stabilizes the active conformation coupled to G protein signaling (WO2012007593), shows a 2072 fold increased affinity for the natural agonist epinephrine and exhibits a 43 fold decreased affinity for the inverse agonist ICI 118,551, compared to the receptor fused to a mock Nanobody that is not directed against and does not specifically bind to 2AR (see Example 6). The finding that the 2AR-N b80 fusion binds the natural agonist epinephrine 2000-fold tighter than 2AR fused to a mock Nanobody indicates that these conformationally constrained fusion proteins show increase in ligand affinities relating to a particular effector system like G-protein mediated signaling. The observation that the 2AR-N b80 fusion also shows an increased affinity for synthetic agonists such as isoproterenol or salbutamol indicates that such conformationally constrained fusion proteins may provide a better starting point to screen for synthetic compounds or biologicals that trigger/inhibit particular signaling pathways. Accordingly, small molecules or fragments that selectively recognize structural features of orthosteric or allosteric sites that are unique to the active conformation of 2AR (leading to G protein coupled signaling) may bind up to 3 orders of magnitude tighter to the 2AR-N b80 1:1 fusion compared to the receptor not constrained in its active state. For HTS purposes, this means that the sensitivity to pick up test compounds that induce G protein coupled signaling may be increased with 3 orders of magnitude if such screening is performed on a GPCR-Nb fusion such as the 2AR-N b80 fusion, compared to HTS efforts on 2AR not constrained in its active state. The well-defined 1:1 stoichiometry of the intramolecular interaction between the GPCR and the binding domain of the chimeric polypeptides of the present invention cannot be maintained /guaranteed as efficiently in intermolecular interactions, nor with a GPCR that is stabilized in a specific conformation by exogenous addition of a conformation-selective binding domain (WO2012007593), neither in a cellular system whereby a GPCR is co-expressed with a conformation-selective binding domain. A particular advantage related to the defined 1: 1 stoichiometry is that the binding domain moiety can constrain a particular receptor conformation at a high, effective intramolecular concentration, even in the absence of any conformation-selective ligand (see Example 8).

HTS based on classical receptor binding techniques such as radioligand competition (inhibition or displacement) assays to selectively screen for a subset of ligands that are specific for a particular druggable conformation of a given GPCR may benefit considerably from the chimeric polypeptides of the invention as compared to non-covalent complexes of the GPCR with a Nanobody that stabilizes the druggable conformation (WO2012007593) (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). This is due to the fact that radioligand competition assays (or competition assays of ligands labeled by another means) critically rely on the physical separation of free ligand and receptor-bound ligand. This is commonly done by filtration on a filter, by centrifugation, by size exclusion chromatography or by other biophysical methods. Separating free ligand (labeled by any means) from labeled ligand bound to the GPCR- binding domain fusion can be easily achieved using the same conventional methods because the chimer is covalently linked in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry of GPCR to binding domain. In case the binding domain is not covalently linked to the GPCR (WO2012007593), radioligand competition assays and the subsequent analysis of the data are much more difficult to perform because the 1:1 stoichiometry of GPCR to binding domain does not hold, implying much more molecular species to be separated and analyzed: free ligand, free binding domain, ligand-receptor complex, receptor-binding domain complex, ligand-receptor-binding domain complex versus free ligand, free chimer and ligand- chimer complex in the case of a GPCR-binding domain fusion (see Example 8).

Further, the innovative features of the GPCR-binding domain fusion proteins of the present invention also allows particular functional conformations of GPCRs to be screened for the binding of lead compounds or fragments using emerging biophysical methods including surface plasmon resonance (Rich et al. 2011) and target immobilized NMR screening (Fruh et al. 2010), because the GPCR can be immobilized as a single protein fusion in the desired functional conformation on the solid phase in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry of GPCR to binding domain.

Furthermore, it is particularly surprising that the GPCR-binding domain fusion proteins of the present invention allow to screen for and discriminate between agonists, antagonists and inverse agonists in one single comparative radioligand competition assay. The ability to discriminate and predict the mode of action of tested compounds at ηΜ-μΜ concentrations without the need for a cellular receptor signaling assay is an additional advantage for compound screening (see Examples 24-26).

Another advantage of these GPCR-binding domain fusion proteins in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry relates to X-ray crystallography of GPCRs and its applications in structure based drug design. More particularly, one advantage of the GPCR-binding domain fusion is that the fusion protein can be purified and crystallized in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry in the presence or absence of any ligand. Multiple ligand-receptor co-complex structures can thus be determined, just by soaking compounds into the ligand free GPCR-binding domain fusion, with the additional advantage that this crystal system is trapped in a predefined receptor conformation such as, for example, an active conformation leading to G protein and/or β-arrestin coupled signaling, or an inactive conformation unable to promote G protein and/or arrestin-coupled signaling. This possibility to soak/co-crystallize ligand free receptor with (low affinity) lead compounds is a prerequisite for lead generation involving virtual screening and during the lead optimization part of drug discovery, for example to address selectivity and solubility issues. Thus, according to a first aspect, the invention relates to a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR moiety and a binding domain moiety. More particularly, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises a GPCR fused to a binding domain, wherein said binding domain is directed against and/or capable of specifically binding to the GPCR in an intramolecular interaction. According to a particular embodiment, the binding domain is fused to the GPCR either directly or through a linker. In a particular embodiment, the binding domain is not a naturally-occurring binding partner, such as a G protein or an arrestin. Preferably, the binding domain as comprised in the chimeric polypeptide is a conformation-selective binding domain. According to one particular embodiment, the invention relates to a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain that is selective for the active conformation, so that the GPCR is stabilized in an active conformation upon binding of the binding domain. According to specific embodiments, the active conformation is an agonist-bound active conformation, such as a full agonist-bound active conformation or a partial agonist-bound active conformation. Alternatively, the invention also relates to a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain that is selective for an inactive conformation, so that the GPCR is stabilized in an inactive conformation upon binding of the binding domain. According to one embodiment, the inactive conformation is an inverse agonist-bound inactive conformation. Preferably, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprising a GPCR fused to a conformation-selective binding domain has an increased affinity for a conformation-selective ligand as compared to the corresponding GPCR alone.

According to more specific embodiments, the invention provides for chimeric polypeptides as described above, wherein the binding domain specifically binds to an intracellular conformational epitope of the GPCR, more particularly wherein said intracellular epitope is comprised in a binding site for a downstream signaling protein (e.g. a G protein binding site). Alternatively, the invention provides for chimeric polypeptides as described above, wherein the binding domain binds to an extracellular conformational epitope of the GPCR.

According to other specific embodiments, the binding domain that form part of the chimeric polypeptide as described above comprises an amino acid sequence that comprises 4 framework regions (FR1 to FR4) and 3 complementary determining regions (CDR1 to CDR3), or any suitable fragment thereof. More specifically, the binding domain may be an immunoglobulin single variable domain, preferably an immunoglobulin single variable domain that is derived from a heavy chain only antibody. Most preferably, the immunoglobulin single variable domain comprises a VHH sequence or a Nanobody sequence. In another aspect, the invention envisages a complex comprising a chimeric polypeptide as described above and a receptor ligand. Such a complex may be in solution or crystalline. Further, nucleic acid molecules comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding the chimeric polypeptide as described above, as well as host cells comprising such nucleic acids are also encompassed. Host cells can be of prokaryotic or eukaryotic origin, such as a bacterial cell, a yeast cell, a mammalian cell, an insect cell. Also envisaged are membrane compositions comprising the chimeric polypeptide or the complex as described herein.

One other aspect of the invention relates to a method to produce a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain, the method comprising the steps of culturing a host cell comprising the chimeric polypeptide as described hereinbefore under suitable conditions and optionally isolating the chimeric polypeptide. Further, the invention also provides for a method to display a GPCR in an active or inactive conformation at the cellular surface or in a particular cellular membrane fraction of a host cell, the method comprising the steps of providing a host cell comprising a chimeric polypeptide as described above and culturing the cell under suitable conditions to express the chimeric polypeptide.

A further aspect of the invention is a method of identifying conformation-selective compounds, the method comprising the steps of

(i) Providing a chimeric polypeptide as described above, and

(ii) Providing a test compound, and

(iii) Evaluating the selective binding of the test compound to the GPCR comprised in the

chimeric polypeptide. The conformation-selective compound (a small molecule, an antibody, an antibody derivative, a peptide or any other protein scaffold that may interact with a GPCR) that is identified by the above method may be an unbiased agonist, an unbiased inverse agonist, or biased ligands that trigger or inhibit G-protein coupled or arrestin coupled signaling, respectively. According to a particular embodiment, the method as described above further comprises the step of classifying the test compounds according to biological activity (agonist activity, inverse agonist, antagonist activity). Or in other words, the above described method allows discriminating between agonists, inverse agonists and antagonist activity.

Also encompassed is the use of a chimeric polypeptide as described above or a complex as described above to crystallize and/or to solve the structure of the GPCR; to capture a GPCR in a functional conformational state. Further aspects and preferred embodiments of the invention are defined in the description below and in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1: Conformational complexity of GPCR signalling. Schematic representation of ligand-biased efficacy, where three different ligands can induce and/or stabilize different receptor conformations that will each promote distinct relative efficacies toward different effector systems. Abbreviations: R, receptor; A, B and C, proteins or group of proteins implicated in a specific signaling pathway. (Adapted from Galandrin et al. 2007).

Figure 2: The 2AR-Nanobody fusions described in Example 1 contain two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR 2AR365N, the linker GGGGSGGGS (underlined and highlighted in bold), a Nanobody. Underlined is the HA signal peptide and the His6 peptide tag. The FLAG-tag is represented in bold, the TEV cleavage site is indicated in grey shade. A. Cartoon representation of the 2AR-Nanobody fusion constructs. B. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb80. C. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb71. D. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb69. E. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb60.

Figure 3: Expression of recombinant 2AR-Nanobody fusion proteins in Sf9 cells analyzed by Western Blot. The presence of fusion protein was detected by anti-FLAG detection as explained in Example 4. Membranes of non-infected Sf9 cells (lane 1). Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant 2AR365N that was not fused to any Nb (lane 2: cells were infected with a 1:250 dilution of P2 and cultured for 48 hours; lane 3: cells were infected with a 1:250 dilution of P2 and cultured for 55 hours; lane 5: cells were infected with a 1:100 dilution of P2 and cultured for 48 hours; lane 6: cells were infected with a 1:100 dilution of P2 and cultured for 55 hours). Protein marker (PageRulerTM Prestained Protein Ladder, Fermentas cat. Nr SM0671) (lane 4). Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant 2AR365N-Nb80 (lane 7: cells were infected with a 1:100 dilution of P2 and cultured for 55 hours). Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant 2AR365N-Nb71 (lane 8: cells were infected with a 1:100 dilution of P2 and cultured for 55 hours). Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant 2AR365N-Nb69 (lane 9: cells were infected with a 1:100 dilution of P2 and cultured for 55 hours). Figure 4: Ligand binding properties of 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion compared to 2AR365N-Nb69 mock fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb80 (open circles), and using the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (closed circles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained β2 adrenergic receptor as described in Example 6. Competition assays were performed on both receptors using the natural agonist epinephrine (A), the agonist (-)-isoproterenol (B), the neutral antagonist alprenolol (C), the partial agonist salbutamol (D), the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 (E), and the antagonist carvedilol (F) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site. Figure 5: Ligand binding properties of 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion compared to non-fused 2AR365N. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb80 (open squares), and using the non-fused 2AR365N receptor (closed squares) as an internal reference for the non-constrained β2 adrenergic receptor as described in Example 6. Competition assays were performed on both receptors using the natural agonist epinephrine (A), and the antagonist carvedilol (B) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50high labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site. Figure 6: Ligand binding properties of 2AR365N-Nb71 fusion compared to 2AR365N-Nb69 fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb71 (open triangles), and using the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (closed triangles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained β2 adrenergic receptor as described in Example 6. Competition assays were performed on both receptors using the natural agonist epinephrine (A), the full agonist isoproterenol (B), the neutral antagonist alprenolol (C), the partial agonist salbutamol (D), the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 (E) and the antagonist carvedilol (F) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site.

Figure 7: Thermostability of the 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion compared to 2AR365N-Nb69 fusion. Thermostabilities of the ligand free DDM solubilized fusion proteins 2AR365-Nb80 (open diamonds) and 2AR365N-Nb69 (closed diamonds). Thermostability assays were performed in the absence of any ligand on solubilized receptors in 0,08% DDM as described in Example 7. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression with the log(agonist) vs response - variable slope (four parameters) equation using Prism using Graphpad Prism 6.0 (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA). Figure 8: Ligand binding properties of 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion compared to the non-fused 2AR365N in complex with exogenously added Nb80. Radioligand displacement assays of epinephrine competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to non-fused 2AR365N receptor in the presence of different concentrations of Nb80 (500nM Nb80: closed triangles, 50nM Nb80: closed diamonds, 5nM Nb80: closed inverted triangles and 50pM Nb80: closed squares; dashed lines) or in the presence of different concentrations of Nb69 (500nM Nb69: open triangle, 50pM Nb69 open squares; dotted lines). The 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion (closed circles, full line) and the 2AR365N-Nb69 fusion (open circles, full line) were used as internal reference in the assay as described in Example 8. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site.

Figure 9: The M2R-Nanobody fusion described in Example 9 contains two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR M2Ai3R, the linker GGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGS (underlined and highlighted in bold) (SEQ ID NO: 49) and a Nanobody. Underlined is the HA signal peptide and the His6 peptide tag. The FLAG-tag is represented in bold, the TEV cleavage site is indicated in grey shade. A. Cartoon representation of the M2R-Nanobody fusion construct. B. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBacl M2Ai3R. C. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBacl M2Ai3R-Nb9-l.

Figure 10: Ligand binding properties of M2Ai3R-Nb9-l compared to the free non-fused M2Ai3R. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-N methyl scopolamine ([3H]- NMS) for binding to M2Ai3R-Nb9-l (closed circles), and using the M2Ai3R (crossed circles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained muscarinic receptor M2 as described in Example 12. Competition assays were performed on both receptors using the agonist carbachol (A) or the agonist oxotremorineM (B) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site.

Figure 11: The 1AR-Nanobody fusions described in Example 13 contains two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR human βΙΑΚ, the linker GGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGS (SEQ ID NO: 60) (underlined and highlighted in bold) and a Nanobody. Underlined is the HA signal peptide and the His6 peptide tag. The FLAG-tag is represented in bold, the TEV cleavage site is indicated in grey shade. A. Cartoon representation of the 1AR-Nanobody fusion constructs. B. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac h 1AR-Nb80. C. The amino acid sequence of the open reading frame encoded by pFastBac h 1AR-Nb69. Figure 12: Ligand binding properties of h 1AR-Nb80 fusion compared to h 1AR-Nb69 fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to h 1AR-Nb80 (open circles), and using the h 1AR-Nb69 chimer (closed circles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained βΐ adrenergic receptor as described in Example 16. Competition assays were performed on both βΐ-receptors fusions using the natural agonist epinephrine (A), the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 (B) and the neutral antagonist alprenolol (C) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site. Figure 13: Ligand binding properties of 2AR365N-Nb60 fusion compared to 2AR365N-Nb69 mock fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb80 (open circles), 2AR365N-Nb60 (crossed open circles), using the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (closed circles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained β2 adrenergic receptor as described in Example 19. Competition assays were performed on the β2- receptors fusions using the natural agonist epinephrine (A), the agonist (-)-isoproterenol (B) and the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 (C) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by nonlinear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model. IC50hlgh labeled values have been fitted to a two binding site competitive binding model and correspond to the IC50 of the highest affinity site.

Figure 14. AA sequence alignment of full length wild type human Mori (Uniprot code P35372; SEQ ID NO: 46) and mouse Mori (Uniprot code P42866; SED ID NO: 45). For the purification of mouse Mori, expressing in sf9 cells, an N-terminal TEV (N-terminus; insect cell expression of mouse Mori) protease cleavage site has been introduced between the two underlined Glycines. A C-terminal 3C protease cleavage site has also been introduced between the underlined isoleucine and the underlined glutamic acid in mouse and human Mori expressed in Sf9. The theoretical intracellular loops (ICL) and the intracellular C-terminus according to the Uniprot database are depicted in grey shade. AA residues that have been deleted in the Mor-Nanobody fusion constructs are striked-through.

Figure 15: The Morl-Nanobody fusions described in Example 20 contain two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPC Mori, the 34 GS linker (underlined and highlighted in bold) and a Nanobody. Underlined is the HA signal peptide and the His6 peptide tag. The FLAG-tag is represented in bold. The 3C cleavage site is indicated in grey shade. A. Cartoon representation of the Morl-Nanobody fusion constructs. B-E. The amino acid sequence of the four Mor-Nb open reading frames.

Figure 16: Ligand binding properties of hMorl-Nb33 fusion compared to hMorl-NblO mock fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different ligands competing with radioligand for binding to hMorl- Nb33 (circles) using the hMorl-NblO chimer (squares) as an internal reference for the non-constrained receptor. Competition assays were performed on both receptors using agonists Dmtl-Dalda (A), KGOP01 (B), and antagonist naloxone (C) as the competing ligand.

Figure 17. Comparative fragment binding with different activity profiles to 2AR-fusions.

Representative example of binding of 6 fragments to the active-state stabilized 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion (open bars) versus the prominent, non-constrained conformation 2AR365N-Nb69 fusion (black bars), measured by radioligand displacement assays using [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) as the radioligand. 2 fragments (AC23506, CC56213) show an agonist profile, 2 fragments (CC46746, CC44914) have an antagonistic profile and 2 fragments KM08985) show an inverse agonist profile.

Figure 18. Dose respons curves of 6 fragments to 2AR-Nb80 fusion compared to 2AR-Nb69 fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of 6 different fragments competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]- DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb80 (open circles) and using the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (closed circles) as an internal reference for the non-constrained β2 adrenergic receptor as described in Example 24. Competition assays were performed on the 2-receptors fusions using 2 fragments with agonist profile (A), 2 fragments with antagonist profile (B) and 2 fragments with the inverse agonist profile (C) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression with the log(agonist) vs response - variable slope (four parameters) equation using Prism using Graphpad Prism 6.0. (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA).

Figure 19: Binding properties of elaborated fragments to the 2AR-Nb80 fusion compared to the 2AR- Nb69 mock fusion. Radioligand displacement assays of different elaborated and original parent fragments competing with [3H]-dihydroalprenolol ([3H]-DHA) for binding to 2AR365N-Nb80 (closed symbols), using the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (open symbols) as an internal reference for the non- constrained β2 adrenergic receptor. Competition assays were performed on the 2-receptors fusions using (A) the CC40246 (full line), the elaborated fragments: compound 2 (dashed line) and compound 3 (dotted line) as the competing ligand, respectively and (B) the CC56213 (full line), the elaborated fragments: compound 9 (dashed line) and compound 10 (dotted line) as the competing ligand, respectively. Curves have been fitted by non-linear regression to a model for competitive binding using the standard settings of Graphpad Prism 6.0. IC50 labeled values have been fitted to a one binding site competitive model.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Definitions

The present invention will be described with respect to particular embodiments and with reference to certain drawings but the invention is not limited thereto but only by the claims. Any reference signs in the claims shall not be construed as limiting the scope. The drawings described are only schematic and are non-limiting. In the drawings, the size of some of the elements may be exaggerated and not drawn on scale for illustrative purposes. Where the term "comprising" is used in the present description and claims, it does not exclude other elements or steps. Where an indefinite or definite article is used when referring to a singular noun e.g. "a" or "an", "the", this includes a plural of that noun unless something else is specifically stated. Furthermore, the terms first, second, third and the like in the description and in the claims, are used for distinguishing between similar elements and not necessarily for describing a sequential or chronological order. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances and that the embodiments of the invention described herein are capable of operation in other sequences than described or illustrated herein.

Unless otherwise defined herein, scientific and technical terms and phrases used in connection with the present invention shall have the meanings that are commonly understood by those of ordinary skill in the art. Generally, nomenclatures used in connection with, and techniques of molecular and cellular biology, structural biology, biophysics, pharmacology, genetics and protein and nucleic acid chemistry described herein are those well-known and commonly used in the art. The methods and techniques of the present invention are generally performed according to conventional methods well known in the art and as described in various general and more specific references that are cited and discussed throughout the present specification unless otherwise indicated. See, for example, Sambrook et al. Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual, 3th ed., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. (2001); Ausubel et al., Current Protocols in Molecular Biology, Greene Publishing Associates (1992, and Supplements to 2002); up, Biomolecular crystallography: principles, Practice and Applications to Structural Biology, 1st edition, Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, an informa Business, N.Y. (2009); Limbird, Cell Surface Receptors, 3d ed., Springer (2004). The terms "chimeric polypeptide", "chimeric protein", "fusion polypeptide", "fusion protein" are used interchangeably herein and refer to a protein that comprises at least two separate and distinct polypeptide components that may or may not originate from the same protein. The polypeptide components, while typically unjoined in their native state, are joined by their respective amino and carboxyl termini through a peptide linkage to form a single continuous polypeptide. For example, a protein of interest fused to an antibody is an example of a chimeric protein. A convenient means for linking or fusing two polypeptides is by expressing them as a fusion protein from a recombinant nucleic acid molecule, which comprises a first polynucleotide encoding a first polypeptide operably linked to a second polynucleotide encoding the second polypeptide. Otherwise, the polypeptides comprised in a fusion protein can be linked through peptide bonds that result from intein-mediated protein splicing (Muralidharan and Muir 2006) or sortagging (Popp et al. 2007) or may be chemically linked by any other means. Typically, a chimeric polypeptide will not exist as a contiguous polypeptide in a protein encoded by a gene in a non-recombinant genome. The term "chimeric polypeptide" and grammatical equivalents refer to a non-naturally occurring molecule which means that it is man-made. The term "fused to", and other grammatical equivalents, when referring to a chimeric polypeptide (as defined herein) refers to any chemical or recombinant mechanism for linking two or more polypeptide components. The fusion of the two or more polypeptide components may be a direct fusion of the sequences or it may be an indirect fusion, e.g. with intervening amino acid sequences or linker sequences. Examples will be provided further herein.

The term "membrane protein", as used herein, refers to a protein that is attached to or associated with a membrane of a cell or an organelle. They are often subdivided into several categories including integral membrane proteins, peripheral membrane proteins and lipid-anchored proteins. Preferably, the membrane protein is an integral membrane protein that is permanently bound to the lipid bilayer and which requires a detergent or another apolar solvent to be removed. Integral membrane proteins include transmembrane proteins that are permanently attached to the lipid membrane and span across the membrane one or several times. Examples of suitable membrane proteins include receptors such as GPC s, amongst others.

As used herein, the terms "polypeptide", "protein", "peptide" are used interchangeably herein, and refer to a polymeric form of amino acids of any length, which can include coded and non-coded amino acids, chemically or biochemically modified or derivatized amino acids, and polypeptides having modified peptide backbones. Throughout the application, the standard one letter notation of amino acids will be used. Typically, the term "amino acid" will refer to "proteinogenic amino acid", i.e. those amino acids that are naturally present in proteins. Most particularly, the amino acids are in the L isomeric form, but D amino acids are also envisaged.

As used herein, the terms "nucleic acid molecule", "polynucleotide", "polynucleic acid", "nucleic acid" are used interchangeably and refer to a polymeric form of nucleotides of any length, either deoxyribonucleotides or ribonucleotides, or analogs thereof. Polynucleotides may have any three- dimensional structure, and may perform any function, known or unknown. Non-limiting examples of polynucleotides include a gene, a gene fragment, exons, introns, messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNA, ribosomal RNA, ribozymes, cDNA, recombinant polynucleotides, branched polynucleotides, plasmids, vectors, isolated DNA of any sequence, control regions, isolated RNA of any sequence, nucleic acid probes, and primers. The nucleic acid molecule may be linear or circular.

Any of the peptides, polypeptides, nucleic acids, etc., disclosed herein may be "isolated" or "purified". "Isolated" is used herein to indicate that the material referred to is (i) separated from one or more substances with which it exists in nature (e.g., is separated from at least some cellular material, separated from other polypeptides, separated from its natural sequence context), and/or (ii) is produced by a process that involves the hand of man such as recombinant DNA technology, chemical synthesis, etc.; and/or (iii) has a sequence, structure, or chemical composition not found in nature. "Purified" as used herein denote that the indicated nucleic acid or polypeptide is present in the substantial absence of other biological macromolecules, e.g., polynucleotides, proteins, and the like. In one embodiment, the polynucleotide or polypeptide is purified such that it constitutes at least 90% by weight, e.g., at least 95% by weight, e.g., at least 99% by weight, of the polynucleotide(s) or polypeptide(s) present (but water, buffers, ions, and other small molecules, especially molecules having a molecular weight of less than 1000 Dalton, can be present).

The term "sequence identity" as used herein refers to the extent that sequences are identical on a nucleotide-by-nucleotide basis or an amino acid-by-amino acid basis over a window of comparison. Thus, a "percentage of sequence identity" is calculated by comparing two optimally aligned sequences over the window of comparison, determining the number of positions at which the identical nucleic acid base (e.g., A, T, C, G, I) or the identical amino acid residue (e.g., Ala, Pro, Ser, Thr, Gly, Val, Leu, lie, Phe, Tyr, Trp, Lys, Arg, His, Asp, Glu, Asn, Gin, Cys and Met) occurs in both sequences to yield the number of matched positions, dividing the number of matched positions by the total number of positions in the window of comparison (i.e., the window size), and multiplying the result by 100 to yield the percentage of sequence identity. Determining the percentage of sequence identity can be done manually, or by making use of computer programs that are available in the art. Examples of useful algorithms are PILEUP (Higgins & Sharp, CABIOS 5:151 (1989), BLAST and BLAST 2.0 (Altschul et al. J. Mol. Biol. 215: 403 (1990). Software for performing BLAST analyses is publicly available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/).

"Similarity" refers to the percentage number of amino acids that are identical or constitute conservative substitutions. Similarity may be determined using sequence comparison programs such as GAP (Deveraux et al. 1984). In this way, sequences of a similar or substantially different length to those cited herein might be compared by insertion of gaps into the alignment, such gaps being determined, for example, by the comparison algorithm used by GAP. As used herein, "conservative substitution" is the substitution of amino acids with other amino acids whose side chains have similar biochemical properties (e.g. are aliphatic, are aromatic, are positively charged, ...) and is well known to the skilled person. Non-conservative substitution is then the substitution of amino acids with other amino acids whose side chains do not have similar biochemical properties (e.g. replacement of a hydrophobic with a polar residue). Conservative substitutions will typically yield sequences which are not identical anymore, but still highly similar. By conservative substitutions is intended combinations such as gly, ala; val, ile, leu, met; asp, glu; asn, gin; ser, thr; lys, arg; cys, met; and phe, tyr, trp.

A "deletion" is defined here as a change in either amino acid or nucleotide sequence in which one or more amino acid or nucleotide residues, respectively, are absent as compared to an amino acid sequence or nucleotide sequence of a parental polypeptide or nucleic acid. Within the context of a protein, a deletion can involve deletion of about 2, about 5, about 10, up to about 20, up to about 30 or up to about 50 or more amino acids. A protein or a fragment thereof may contain more than one deletion. Within the context of a GPC , a deletion may also be a loop deletion, or an N- and/or C- terminal deletion, or a combination thereof. As will be clear to the skilled person, an N- and/or C- terminal deletion of a GPCR is also referred to as a truncation of the amino acid sequence of the GPCR or a truncated GPCR. An "insertion" or "addition" is that change in an amino acid or nucleotide sequences which has resulted in the addition of one or more amino acid or nucleotide residues, respectively, as compared to an amino acid sequence or nucleotide sequence of a parental protein. "Insertion" generally refers to addition to one or more amino acid residues within an amino acid sequence of a polypeptide, while "addition" can be an insertion or refer to amino acid residues added at an N- or C-terminus, or both termini. Within the context of a protein or a fragment thereof, an insertion or addition is usually of about 1 , about 3, about 5, about 10, up to about 20, up to about 30 or up to about 50 or more amino acids. A protein or fragment thereof may contain more than one insertion.

A "substitution", as used herein, results from the replacement of one or more amino acids or nucleotides by different amino acids or nucleotides, respectively as compared to an amino acid sequence or nucleotide sequence of a parental protein or a fragment thereof. It is understood that a protein or a fragment thereof may have conservative amino acid substitutions which have substantially no effect on the protein's activity. By conservative substitutions is intended combinations such as gly, ala; val, ile, leu, met; asp, glu; asn, gin; ser, thr; lys, arg; cys, met; and phe, tyr, trp. The term "recombinant" when used in reference to a cell, nucleic acid, protein or vector, indicates that the cell, nucleic acid, protein or vector, has been modified by the introduction of a heterologous nucleic acid or protein or the alteration of a native nucleic acid or protein, or that the cell is derived from a cell so modified. Thus, for example, recombinant cells express nucleic acids or polypeptides that are not found within the native (non-recombinant) form of the cell or express native genes that are otherwise abnormally expressed, under expressed, over expressed or not expressed at all.

As used herein, the term "expression" refers to the process by which a polypeptide is produced based on the nucleic acid sequence of a gene. The process includes both transcription and translation.

The term "operably linked" as used herein refers to a linkage in which the regulatory sequence is contiguous with the gene of interest to control the gene of interest, as well as regulatory sequences that act in trans or at a distance to control the gene of interest. For example, a DNA sequence is operably linked to a promoter when it is ligated to the promoter downstream with respect to the transcription initiation site of the promoter and allows transcription elongation to proceed through the DNA sequence. A DNA for a signal sequence is operably linked to DNA coding for a polypeptide if it is expressed as a pre-protein that participates in the transport of the polypeptide. Linkage of DNA sequences to regulatory sequences is typically accomplished by ligation at suitable restriction sites or adapters or linkers inserted in lieu thereof using restriction endonucleases known to one of skill in the art. The term "regulatory sequence" as used herein, and also referred to as "control sequence", refers to polynucleotide sequences which are necessary to affect the expression of coding sequences to which they are operably linked. Regulatory sequences are sequences which control the transcription, post- transcriptional events and translation of nucleic acid sequences. Regulatory sequences include appropriate transcription initiation, termination, promoter and enhancer sequences; efficient RNA processing signals such as splicing and polyadenylation signals; sequences that stabilize cytoplasmic mRMA; sequences that enhance translation efficiency (e.g., ribosome binding sites); sequences that enhance protein stability; and when desired, sequences that enhance protein secretion. The nature of such control sequences differs depending upon the host organism. The term "regulatory sequence" is intended to include, at a minimum, all components whose presence is essential for expression, and can also include additional components whose presence is advantageous, for example, leader sequences and fusion partner sequences.

The term "vector" as used herein is intended to refer to a nucleic acid molecule capable of transporting another nucleic acid molecule to which it has been linked. The vector may be of any suitable type including, but not limited to, a phage, virus, plasmid, phagemid, cosmid, bacmid or even an artificial chromosome. Certain vectors are capable of autonomous replication in a host cell into which they are introduced (e.g., vectors having an origin of replication which functions in the host cell). Other vectors can be integrated into the genome of a host cell upon introduction into the host cell, and are thereby replicated along with the host genome. Moreover, certain preferred vectors are capable of directing the expression of certain genes of interest. Such vectors are referred to herein as "recombinant expression vectors" (or simply, "expression vectors"). Suitable vectors have regulatory sequences, such as promoters, enhancers, terminator sequences, and the like as desired and according to a particular host organism (e.g. bacterial cell, yeast cell). Typically, a recombinant vector according to the present invention comprises at least one "chimeric gene" or "expression cassette". Expression cassettes are generally DNA constructs preferably including (5' to 3' in the direction of transcription): a promoter region, a polynucleotide sequence, homologue, variant or fragment thereof of the present invention operably linked with the transcription initiation region, and a termination sequence including a stop signal for RNA polymerase and a polyadenylation signal. It is understood that all of these regions should be capable of operating in biological cells, such as prokaryotic or eukaryotic cells, to be transformed. The promoter region comprising the transcription initiation region, which preferably includes the RNA polymerase binding site, and the polyadenylation signal may be native to the biological cell to be transformed or may be derived from an alternative source, where the region is functional in the biological cell. The term "host cell", as used herein, is intended to refer to a cell into which a recombinant vector has been introduced. It should be understood that such terms are intended to refer not only to the particular subject cell but also to the progeny of such a cell. Because certain modifications may occur in succeeding generations due to either mutation or environmental influences, such progeny may not, in fact, be identical to the parent cell, but are still included within the scope of the term "host cell" as used herein. A host cell may be an isolated cell or cell line grown in culture or may be a cell which resides in a living tissue or organism. In particular, host cells are of bacterial or fungal origin, but may also be of plant or mammalian origin. The wordings "host cell", "recombinant host cell", "expression host cell", "expression host system", "expression system", are intended to have the same meaning and are used interchangeably herein.

An "epitope", as used herein, refers to an antigenic determinant of a polypeptide. An epitope could comprise 3 amino acids in a spatial conformation, which is unique to the epitope. Generally an epitope consists of at least 4, 5, 6, 7 such amino acids, and more usually, consists of at least 8, 9, 10 such amino acids. Methods of determining the spatial conformation of amino acids are known in the art, and include, for example, x-ray crystallography and multi-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance.

A "conformational epitope", as used herein, refers to an epitope comprising amino acids in a spacial conformation that is unique to a folded 3-dimensional conformation of a polypeptide. Generally, a conformational epitope consists of amino acids that are discontinuous in the linear sequence but that come together in the folded structure of the protein. However, a conformational epitope may also consist of a linear sequence of amino acids that adopts a conformation that is unique to a folded 3- dimensional conformation of the polypeptide (and not present in a denatured state). In protein complexes, conformational epitopes consist of amino acids that are discontinuous in the linear sequences of one or more polypeptides that come together upon folding of the different folded polypeptides and their association in a unique quaternary structure. Similarly, conformational epitopes may here also consist of a linear sequence of amino acids of one or more polypeptides that come together and adopt a conformation that is unique to the quaternary structure.

The term "conformation" or "conformational state" of a protein refers generally to the range of structures that a protein may adopt at any instant in time. One of skill in the art will recognize that determinants of conformation or conformational state include a protein's primary structure as reflected in a protein's amino acid sequence (including modified amino acids) and the environment surrounding the protein. The conformation or conformational state of a protein also relates to structural features such as protein secondary structures (e.g., a-helix, β-sheet, among others), tertiary structure (e.g., the three dimensional folding of a polypeptide chain), and quaternary structure (e.g., interactions of a polypeptide chain with other protein subunits). Post-translational and other modifications to a polypeptide chain such as ligand binding, phosphorylation, sulfation, glycosylation, or attachments of hydrophobic groups, among others, can influence the conformation of a protein. Furthermore, environmental factors, such as pH, salt concentration, ionic strength, and osmolality of the surrounding solution, and interaction with other proteins and co-factors, among others, can affect protein conformation. The conformational state of a protein may be determined by either functional assay for activity or binding to another molecule or by means of physical methods such as X-ray crystallography, NMR, or spin labeling, among other methods. For a general discussion of protein conformation and conformational states, one is referred to Cantor and Schimmel, Biophysical Chemistry, Part I: The Conformation of Biological. Macromolecules,.W.H. Freeman and Company, 1980, and Creighton, Proteins: Structures and Molecular Properties, W.H. Freeman and Company, 1993.

A "functional conformation" or a "functional conformational state" refers to the fact that proteins, in particular GPCRs, possess different conformational states having a dynamic range of activity, in particular ranging from no activity to maximal activity. It should be clear that "a functional conformational state", as used herein, is meant to cover any conformational state of a protein, in particular a GPCR, having any activity, including no activity, and is not meant to cover the denatured states of proteins. Non-limiting examples of functional conformations of GPCRs include active conformations, inactive conformations or basal conformations. A particular class of functional conformations is defined as "druggable conformation" and generally refers to a unique therapeutically relevant conformational state of a target protein. As an illustration, the agonist-bound active conformation of the β2 adrenergic receptor corresponds to the druggable conformation of this receptor relating to smooth muscle relaxation, dilation of bronchial passages (asthma), vasodilation in muscle and liver, relaxation of uterine muscle, and release of insulin. It will thus be understood that druggability is confined to particular conformations depending on the therapeutic indication. More details are provided further herein.

The term "stabilizing" or "stabilized", with respect to a functional conformational state of a GPCR, as used herein, refers to the retaining or holding of a GPCR in a subset of the possible conformations that it could otherwise assume, due to the effects of the intramolecular interaction of the GPCR moiety with the binding domain moiety of the chimeric polypeptide of the present invention. Within this context, a binding domain that specifically or selectively binds to a particular conformation of a GPCR refers to a binding domain that binds with a higher affinity to the GPCR in a subset of conformations than to other conformations that the GPCR may assume. One of skill in the art will recognize that binding domains that specifically or selectively bind to a particular conformation of a GPC will stabilize this particular conformation, and its related activity. More details are provided further herein.

The term "affinity", as used herein, generally refers to the degree to which a ligand (as defined further herein) binds to a target protein so as to shift the equilibrium of target protein and ligand toward the presence of a complex formed by their binding. Thus, for example, where a chimeric polypeptide and a ligand are combined in relatively equal concentration, a ligand of high affinity will bind to the chimeric polypeptide so as to shift the equilibrium toward high concentration of the resulting complex. The dissociation constant Kd is commonly used to describe the affinity between a ligand and a target protein. Typically, the dissociation constant has a value that is lower than 10 s M. Preferably, the dissociation constant is lower than 10~6 M, more preferably, lower than 10~7 M. Most preferably, the dissociation constant is lower than 10 s M. Other ways of describing the affinity between a ligand and its target protein are the association constant (Ka), the inhibition constant (Ki), or indirectly by evaluating the potency of ligands by measuring the half maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) or half maximal effective concentration (EC50). It will be appreciated that within the scope of the present invention, the term "affinity" is used in the context of a binding domain that binds a conformational epitope of a target GPCR as well as in the context of a test compound (as defined further herein) that binds to the chimeric polypeptide of the present invention, more particularly to an orthosteric or allosteric site of a target GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide.

It should be noted that, in intramolecular interactions, such as the specific interaction of the binding domain moiety to the GPCR moiety of the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, the two interacting groups are contained within a single molecule. The dissociation constant between the binding domain and the target, might be known when they are individual molecules, but for an intramolecular interaction, their concentration within the solution is irrelevant. Instead, it is the "effective concentration" of the two groups within the macromolecule that is important for the intramolecular interaction. The term "effective intramolecular concentration" or "effective molarity" (Meff), as used herein, refers to the effective concentration and can be calculated as Kd mte7Kd mtra, wherein the dissociation constant Kd mtra, which is dimensionless, is the dissociation constant that is used to describe an intramolecular reaction, which is a fusion of a target GPCR and a binding domain, and wherein Kd mter, which has units of concentration (e.g. molarity), is the dissociation constant for an analogous intermolecular interaction, which is a non-covalent complex of a binding domain and a target GPCR. The effective molarity will depend upon the structure of the macromolecule, in particular the extent to which it brings the two reactants together or keeps them apart, plus the environment in which the two groups are kept. The effective molarity for the intramolecular reaction will be essentially zero if the macromolecular structure keeps the two groups apart, which is the case when a binding domain is not directed against and/or is not capable of specifically binding (as defined further herein) to a target GPC . At the other extreme, when the macromolecular structure keeps the two groups in the correct proximity and orientation for reaction, their effective molarity can be extremely high, up to 1010M, concentrations that are not feasible with two independent molecules. According to the present invention, this is the case when a binding domain is capable of specifically binding (as defined further herein) to a target GPCR. Such values are predicted by theoretical considerations and are also observed experimentally, from the ratio of the rate or equilibrium constants for the same reaction when the groups are on the same molecule and on separate molecules. The term "specificity", as used herein, refers to the ability of a binding domain, in particular an immunoglobulin or an immunoglobulin fragment, such as a VHH or Nanobody, to bind preferentially to one antigen, versus a different antigen, and does not necessarily imply high affinity.

The terms "specifically bind" and "specific binding", as used herein, generally refers to the ability of a binding domain, in particular an immunoglobulin, such as an antibody, or an immunoglobulin fragment, such as a VHH or Nanobody, to preferentially bind to a particular antigen that is present in a homogeneous mixture of different antigens. In certain embodiments, a specific binding interaction will discriminate between desirable and undesirable antigens in a sample, in some embodiments more than about 10 to 100-fold or more (e.g., more than about 1000- or 10,000-fold). Within the context of the spectrum of conformational states of GPCRs, the terms particularly refer to the ability of a binding domain (as defined herein) to preferentially recognize and/or bind to a particular conformational state of a GPCR as compared to another conformational state. Accordingly, as used herein, the term "conformation-selective binding domain" in the context of the present invention refers to a binding domain that binds to a target GPCR in a conformation-selective manner. A binding domain that selectively binds to a particular conformation of a GPCR refers to a binding domain that binds with a higher affinity to a GPCR in a subset of conformations than to other conformations that the GPCR may assume. One of skill in the art will recognize that binding domains that selectively bind to a particular conformation of a GPCR will stabilize or retain the GPCR it this particular conformation. For example, an active state conformation-selective binding domain will preferentially bind to a GPCR in an active conformational state and will not or to a lesser degree bind to a GPCR in an inactive conformational state, and will thus have a higher affinity for said active conformational state; or vice versa. The terms "specifically bind", "selectively bind", "preferentially bind", and grammatical equivalents thereof, are used interchangeably herein. The terms "conformational specific" or "conformational selective" are also used interchangeably herein. The term "compound" or "test compound" or "candidate compound" or "drug candidate compound" as used herein are intended to have the same meaning and describe any molecule, either naturally occurring or synthetic that is tested in an assay, such as a screening assay for drug discovery purposes. As such, these compounds comprise organic or inorganic compounds. The compounds include small molecules, polynucleotides, lipids or hormone analogs that are characterized by low molecular weights. Other biopolymeric organic test compounds include small peptides or peptide-like molecules (peptidomimetics) comprising from about 2 to about 40 amino acids and larger polypeptides comprising from about 40 to about 500 amino acids, such as antibodies, antibody fragments or antibody conjugates. Test compounds can also be protein scaffolds or synthetic scaffolds. For high- throughput purposes, test compound libraries may be used, such as combinatorial or randomized libraries that provide a sufficient range of diversity. Examples include, but are not limited to, natural compound libraries, allosteric compound libraries, peptide libraries, antibody fragment libraries, synthetic compound libraries, fragment-based libraries, phage-display libraries, and the like. A more detailed description can be found further in the specification. As used herein, the term "ligand" means a molecule that binds to a polypeptide, in particular a GPCR. A ligand may be, without the purpose of being limitative, a protein, a (poly)peptide, a lipid, a small molecule, a protein scaffold, a nucleic acid, an ion, a carbohydrate, an antibody or an antibody fragment. A ligand may be synthetic or naturally occurring. A ligand also includes a "native ligand" which is a ligand that is an endogenous, natural ligand for a native protein. Within the context of the present invention, a ligand means a molecule that binds to a GPCR, either at the intracellular site or extracellular site and/or at the transmembrane domains. Usually, but not necessarily, a GPCR will adopt a particular conformation upon binding of a ligand. Thus, a ligand may also be a "conformation- selective ligand" or "conformation-specific ligand". The term includes agonists, full agonists, partial agonists, and inverse agonists, binding at either the orthosteric site or at an allosteric site. For the sake of clarity, the term "conformation-selective ligand" or "conformation-specific ligand" does not include a neutral antagonist, since a neutral antagonist does not selectively bind a particular conformation of a GPCR.

An "orthosteric ligand", as used herein, refers to a ligand (both natural and synthetic), that binds to the active site of a receptor, such as a GPCR, and are further classified according to their efficacy or in other words to the effect they have on signaling through a specific pathway. As used herein, an "agonist" refers to a ligand that, by binding a receptor protein, increases the receptor's signaling activity. Full agonists are capable of maximal protein stimulation; partial agonists are unable to elicit full activity even at saturating concentrations. Partial agonists can also function as "blockers" by preventing the binding of more robust agonists. An "antagonist", also referred to as a "neutral antagonist", refers to a ligand that binds a receptor without stimulating any activity. An "antagonist" is also known as a "blocker" because of its ability to prevent binding of other ligands and, therefore, block agonist-induced activity. Further, an "inverse agonist" refers to an antagonist that, in addition to blocking agonist effects, reduces a receptor's basal or constitutive activity below that of the unliganded protein.

Ligands as used herein may also be "biased ligands" with the ability to selectively stimulate a subset of a receptor's signaling activities, for example in the case of GPCRs the selective activation of G-protein or β-arrestin function. Such ligands are known as "biased ligands", "biased agonists" or "functionally selective agonists". More particularly, ligand bias can be an imperfect bias characterized by a ligand stimulation of multiple receptor activities with different relative efficacies for different signals or can be a perfect bias characterized by a ligand stimulation of one receptor protein activity without any stimulation of another known receptor protein activity.

Another kind of ligands is known as allosteric regulators. "Allosteric regulators" or otherwise "allosteric modulators", "allosteric ligands" or "effector molecules", as used herein, refer to ligands that bind at an allosteric site (that is, a regulatory site physically distinct from the protein's active site) of a receptor protein such as a GPCR. In contrast to orthosteric ligands, allosteric modulators are non-competitive because they bind receptor proteins at a different site and modify their function even if the endogenous ligand also is binding. Allosteric regulators that enhance the protein's activity are referred to herein as "allosteric activators" or "positive allosteric modulators" (PAMs), whereas those that decrease the protein's activity are referred to herein as "allosteric inhibitors" or otherwise "negative allosteric modulators" (NAMs).

As used herein, the terms "determining", "measuring", "assessing", "monitoring" and "assaying" are used interchangeably and include both quantitative and qualitative determinations. As used herein, the terms "complementarity determining region" or "CDR" within the context of antibodies refer to variable regions of either H (heavy) or L (light) chains (also abbreviated as VH and VL, respectively) and contains the amino acid sequences capable of specifically binding to antigenic targets. These CDR regions account for the basic specificity of the antibody for a particular antigenic determinant structure. Such regions are also referred to as "hypervariable regions." The CDRs represent non-contiguous stretches of amino acids within the variable regions but, regardless of species, the positional locations of these critical amino acid sequences within the variable heavy and light chain regions have been found to have similar locations within the amino acid sequences of the variable chains. The variable heavy and light chains of all canonical antibodies each have 3 CDR regions, each non- contiguous with the others (termed LI, L2, L3, HI, H2, H3) for the respective light (L) and heavy (H) chains. Immunoglobulin single variable domains, in particular VHHs or Nanobodies, generally comprise a single amino acid chain that can be considered to comprise 4 "framework sequences or regions" or FRs and 3 "complementarity determining regions" or CDRs. The Nanobodies have 3 CDR regions, each non-contiguous with the others (termed CDR1, CDR2, CDR3). The delineation of the FR and CDR sequences can, for example, be based on the IMGT unique numbering system for V-domains and V-like domains (Lefranc et al. 2003,).

Detailed description Chimeric polypeptides

A first aspect of the invention relates to a chimeric polypeptide comprising a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) fused to a binding domain, wherein the binding domain is directed against and/or specifically binds to the GPCR. The invention thus provides a chimeric polypeptide which is a fusion protein of at least two moieties, in particular at least a GPCR moiety and a binding domain moiety, wherein the binding domain is directed against and/or specifically binds to the GPCR.

In general, the choice of the GPCR moiety forming part of the chimeric polypeptide is not critical to the invention, and will typically be selected according to the intended use and application. A prerequisite of the binding domain moiety is its capability to specifically bind (as defined herein) to the GPCR of choice. Thus, the binding domain moiety may generally be directed against any desired GPCR, and may in particular be directed against any conformational epitope (as defined herein) of any GPCR. A binding domain that specifically binds to a "conformational epitope" specifically binds to a tertiary (i.e., three dimensional) structure of a folded protein, and binds at much reduced (i.e., by a factor of at least 2, 5, 10, 50 or 100) affinity to the linear (i.e., unfolded, denatured) form of the protein. In particular, said conformational epitope can be part of an intracellular or extracellular region, or an intramembraneous region, or a domain or loop structure of any desired GPCR. Thus, according to particular embodiments, the binding domain moiety may be directed against an extracellular region, domain, loop or other extracellular conformational epitope of any desired GPCR, but is preferably directed against the extracellular parts of the transmembrane domains or more preferably against the extracellular loops that link the transmembrane domains. Alternatively, the binding domain moiety may be directed against an intracellular region, domain, loop or other intracellular conformational epitope of any desired GPCR, but is preferably directed against one of the intracellular parts of the transmembrane domains or more preferably against the intracellular loops that link the transmembrane domains. In other specific embodiments, the binding domain moiety may be directed against a conformational epitope that forms part of the binding site of a natural ligand, including but limited to an endogenous orthosteric agonist. In still other embodiments, the binding domain moiety may be directed against a conformational epitope, in particular an intracellular epitope, that is comprised in a binding site for a downstream signaling protein, including but not-limited to a G protein binding site, a β-arrestin binding site.

According to a preferred embodiment, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises a GPC fused to a binding domain wherein, upon binding of the binding domain to the GPCR in an intramolecular reaction, the GPCR is stabilized in a particular conformation without the need for an additional ligand. Preferably, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises a GPCR that is stabilized by the binding domain in a functional conformation (as defined herein). With the term "stabilized", as defined hereinbefore, is meant an increased stability of a GPCR with respect to the structure (e.g. conformational state) and/or particular biological activity (e.g. intracellular signaling activity, ligand binding affinity, ...). In relation to increased stability with respect to structure and/or biological activity, this may be readily determined either by means of physical methods such as X-ray crystallography, NMR, or spin labeling, among other methods or by a functional assay for activity (e.g. Ca2+ release, cAMP generation or transcriptional activity, β-arrestin recruitment, ...) or ligand binding, among other methods. The term "stabilize" also includes increased thermostability of the GPCR under non-physiological conditions induced by denaturants or denaturing conditions. The term "thermostabilize", "thermostabilizing", "increasing the thermostability of", as used herein, refers to the functional rather than to the thermodynamic properties of a GPCR and to the protein's resistance to irreversible denaturation induced by thermal and/or chemical approaches including but not limited to heating, cooling, freezing, chemical denaturants, pH, detergents, salts, additives, proteases or temperature. Irreversible denaturation leads to the irreversible unfolding of the functional conformations of the protein, loss of biological activity and aggregation of the denaturated protein. In relation to an increased stability to heat, this can be readily determined by measuring ligand binding or by using spectroscopic methods such as fluorescence, CD or light scattering that are sensitive to unfolding at increasing temperatures. It is preferred that the binding domain moiety is capable of increasing the stability as measured by an increase in the thermal stability of a GPCR in a functional conformational state with at least 2°C, at least 5°C, at least 8°C, and more preferably at least 10°C or 15°C or 20°C. In relation to an increased stability to a detergent or to a chaotrope, typically the GPCR is incubated for a defined time in the presence of a test detergent or a test chaotropic agent and the stability is determined using, for example, ligand binding or a spectroscoptic method, optionally at increasing temperatures as discussed above. Otherwise, the binding domain moiety is capable of increasing the stability to extreme pH of a functional conformational state of a GPCR. In relation to an extreme of pH, a typical test pH would be chosen for example in the range 6 to 8, the range 5.5 to 8.5, the range 5 to 9, the range 4.5 to 9.5, more specifically in the range 4.5 to 5.5 (low pH) or in the range 8.5 to 9.5 (high pH). The term "(thermo)stabilize", "(thermo)stabilizing", "increasing the (thermo)stability of", as used herein, applies to GPCRs embedded in lipid particles or lipid layers (for example, lipid monolayers, lipid bilayers, and the like) and to GPCRs that have been solubilized in detergent.

It is thus particularly envisaged that the chimeric polypeptides of the invention comprise a GPCR moiety that is stabilized in a functional conformation upon binding of the binding domain moiety. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the GPCR moiety is stabilized in an active conformation upon binding of a binding domain that is selective for an active conformation. The term "active conformation", as used herein, refers to a spectrum of receptor conformations that upon binding of a ligand allows signal transduction towards an intracellular effector system, including G protein dependent signaling and G protein-independent signaling (e.g. β-arrestin signaling). An "active conformation" thus encompasses a range of ligand-specific conformations, including an agonist-bound active conformation, a partial agonist-bound active conformation or a biased agonist conformation that induces the cooperative binding of an intracellular effector protein. In another preferred embodiment, the GPCR moiety is stabilized in an inactive conformation upon binding of a binding domain that is conformation-selective for an inactive conformation. The term "inactive conformation", as used herein, refers to a spectrum of receptor conformations that does not allow or blocks signal transduction towards an intracellular effector system. An "inactive conformation" thus encompasses a range of ligand-specific conformations, including an inverse agonist-bound inactive conformation that prevents the cooperative binding of an intracellular effector protein. It will be understood that the site of binding of the ligand is not critical for obtaining an active or inactive conformation. Hence, orthosteric ligands as well as allosteric modulators may equally be capable of stabilizing a GPCR in an active or inactive conformation. Thus, according to a particular embodiment of the present invention, the binding domain moiety that is capable of stabilizing the GPCR moiety may bind at the orthosteric site or at an allosteric site. In other specific embodiments, the binding domain moiety that is capable of stabilizing the GPCR moiety may be a binding domain that is selective for an agonist-bound active conformation, or that is selective for a partial agonist-bound active conformation or that is selective for a biased agonist-bound functional conformation binding domain, or that is selective for an inverse agonist-bound inactive conformation. It will thus be understood that the chimeric polypeptides of the present invention are conformationally constrained proteins since the GPCR moiety of the fusion is stabilized in a particular functional conformation, due to the high local concentration of the tethered binding domain. To illustrate this further, without the purpose of being limitative, a chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprising a GPCR that is stabilized in an active conformation will have an increased or enhanced affinity for an agonist, more particularly for a full agonist, a partial agonist or a biased agonist, as compared to the to the corresponding non-fused GPCR or as compared to a chimeric polypeptide of the corresponding GPCR fused to a mock binding moiety (also referred to as control binding moiety or irrelevant binding moiety, and that is not directed to and/or does not specifically bind to the GPCR). Also, a chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprising a GPCR that is stabilized in an active conformation will have a decreased affinity for an inverse agonist, as compared to the corresponding non-fused GPCR or to a chimeric polypeptide of the corresponding GPCR fused to a mock binding moiety. In contrast, a chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprising a GPCR that is stabilized in an inactive conformation will have an enhanced affinity for an inverse agonist and/or will have a decreased affinity for an agonist as compared to the corresponding non-fused GPCR or to a chimeric polypeptide of the corresponding GPCR fused to a mock binding moiety. An increase or decrease in affinity for a ligand may be directly measured by and/or calculated from a decrease or increase, respectively in EC50, IC50, Kd, K, or any other measure of affinity or potency known to one of skill in the art. Preferably, the affinity of a chimeric polypeptide of the invention for a ligand is increased or decreased at least 2 fold, at least 5 fold, at least 10 fold, at least 50 fold, and more preferably at least 100 fold, at least 200 fold, at least 300 fold, at least 400 fold, at least 500 fold, even more preferably at least 1000 fold or 2000 fold or more, upon binding to the constrained GPCR. It will be appreciated that affinity measurements for conformation-selective ligands that trigger/inhibit particular signaling pathways may be carried with any type of ligand, including natural ligands, small molecules, as well as biologicals; with orthosteric ligands as well as allosteric modulators; with single compounds as well as compound libraries; with lead compounds or fragments; etc.

Further, the way the different moieties that form part of the chimeric polypeptides as described are fused to each other will typically depend on both the type of GPCR and the characteristics of the binding domain (e.g. conformational epitope to which it binds). As is known by the person skilled in the art, GPCRs are characterized by an extracellular N-terminus, followed by seven transmembrane a- helices connected by three intracellular and three extracellular loops, and finally an intracellular C- terminus (see also further herein). Depending on the site of binding (extracellular or intracellular or transmembrane), the binding domain moiety will preferably be fused to the N-terminal end of the GPCR or to the C-terminal end. Preferably, a binding domain that binds the GPCR at an intracellular site will be fused to the C-terminus of the GPCR. Likewise, a binding domain that binds the GPCR at an extracellular site will be fused to the N-terminus of the GPCR. The binding domain moiety will be fused with its C-terminal end to N-terminal end of the GPCR or the binding domain can be fused with its N- terminal end to the C-terminal end of the GPCR. Further, the fusion may be a direct fusion of the sequences or it may be an indirect fusion, e.g. with intervening amino acid sequences or linker sequences (as described further herein). A person skilled in the art will know how to design a fusion construct. If available, one will make use of the atomic structure of the GPCR separately and/or the atomic structure of the binding domain separately and/or the atomic structure of the GPCR in complex with the binding domain. Alternatively, the GPCR could be linked to the binding domain using intein- mediated protein splicing (Muralidharan and Muir 2006) or sortagging (Popp et al. 2007) or other chemoenzymatic methods for site-specific labeling or engineering of proteins with small molecules or other proteins, for example as described in Chen and Ting (2005) and Rabuka (2010) and incorporated herein by reference.

Particular embodiments of the different moieties that form part of the chimeric polypeptides of the invention will be further detailed here below.

GPCR moiety

The chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises at least two polypeptide components, one of which is a GPCR. As a GPCR, any GPCR of interest can be used. The skilled person can choose a suitable GPCR depending on the intended application (as described further herein). In the same line, and depending on the intended use, a GPCR from any organism may be selected, such as fungus (including yeast), nematode, virus, insect, plant, bird (e.g. chicken, turkey), reptile, or mammal (e.g., a mouse, rat, rabbit, hamster, gerbil, dog, cat, goat, pig, cow, horse, whale, monkey, camelid, or human).

"G-protein coupled receptors", or "GPCRs", as used herein, are well-known by the skilled person and refer to polypeptides that share a common structural motif, having seven regions of between 22 to 24 hydrophobic amino acids that form seven alpha helices, each of which spans the membrane. Each span is identified by number, i.e., transmembrane-1 (TM1), transmembrane-2 (TM2), etc. The transmembrane helices are joined by regions of amino acids between transmembrane-2 and transmembrane-3, transmembrane-4 and transmembrane-5, and transmembrane-6 and transmembrane-7 on the exterior, or "extracellular" side, of the cell membrane, referred to as "extracellular" regions 1 , 2 and 3 (ECl , EC2 and EC3), respectively. The transmembrane helices are also joined by regions of amino acids between transmembrane-1 and transmembrane-2, transmembrane-3 and transmembrane-4, and transmembrane-5 and transmembrane-6 on the interior, or "intracellular" side, of the cell membrane, referred to as "intracellular" regions 1 , 2 and 3 (IC1 , IC2 and IC3), respectively. The "carboxy" ("C") terminus of the receptor lies in the intracellular space within the cell, and the "amino" ("N") terminus of the receptor lies in the extracellular space outside of the cell. Any of these regions are readily identifiable by analysis of the primary amino acid sequence of a GPCR.

GPCR structure and classification is generally well known in the art and further discussion of GPCRs may be found in Probst et al. 1992; Marchese et al. 1994; Lagerstrom & Schioth, 2008; Rosenbaum et al. 2009; and the following books: Jurgen Wess (Ed) Structure-Function Analysis of G Protein- Coupled Receptors published by Wiley-Liss (1 st edition; October 15, 1999); Kevin R. Lynch (Ed) Identification and Expression of G Protein-Coupled Receptors published by John Wiley & Sons (March 1998) and Tatsuya Haga (Ed), G Protein-Coupled Receptors, published by CRC Press (September 24, 1999); and Steve Watson (Ed) G-Protein Linked Receptor Factsbook, published by Academic Press (1st edition; 1994). GPCRs can be grouped on the basis of sequence homology and functional similarity into several families, each of which can be used in the creation and use of the chimeric polypeptides of the invention. Most of the human GPCRs can be found in five main families, termed Glutamate, Rhodopsin, Adhesion, Frizzled/Taste2 and Secretin (Fredriksson et al., 2003). Members of the Rhodopsin family corresponding to class A (Kolakowski, 1994) or Class 1 (Foord et al 2005) in older classification systems only have small extracellular loops and the interaction of the ligands occurs with residues within the transmembrane cleft. This is by far the largest group (>90% of the GPCRs) and contains receptors for odorants, small molecules such as catecholamines and amines, (neuro)peptides and glycoprotein hormones. Rhodopsin, a representative of this family, is the first GPCR for which the structure has been solved (Palczewski et al., 2000). P2AR, the first receptor interacting with a diffusible ligand for which the structure has been solved (Rosenbaum et al, 2007) also belongs to this family. Based on phylogenetic analysis, class B GPCRs or Class 2 (Foord et al, 2005) receptors have recently been subdivided into two families: adhesion and secretin (Fredriksson et al., 2003). Adhesion and secretin receptors are characterized by a relatively long amino terminal extracellular domain involved in ligand- binding. Little is known about the orientation of the transmembrane domains, but it is probably quite different from that of rhodopsin. Ligands for these GPCRs are hormones, such as glucagon, secretin, gonadotropin-releasing hormone and parathyroid hormone. The Glutamate family receptors (Class C or Class 3 receptors) also have a large extracellular domain, which functions like a "Venus fly trap" since it can open and close with the agonist bound inside. Family members are the metabotropic glutamate, the Ca2+-sensing and the γ- aminobutyric acid (GABA)-B receptors. Thus, according to particular embodiments of the invention, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises a GPCR that is chosen from the group comprising a GPCR of the Glutamate family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the Rhodopsin family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the Adhesion family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the Frizzled/Taste2 family of GPCRs, and a GPCR of the Secretin family of GPCRs. Preferably, the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide is a mammalian protein, or a plant protein, or a microbial protein, or a viral protein, or an insect protein. Even more preferably, the GPCR is a human protein.

More specifically, GPCRs include, without limitation, 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors, acetylcholine receptors (muscarinic), adenosine receptors, adrenoceptors, anaphylatoxin receptors, angiotensin receptors, apelin receptors, bile acid receptors, bombesin receptors, bradykinin receptors, cannabinoid receptors, chemokine receptors, cholecystokinin receptors, dopamine receptors, endothelin receptors, estrogen (G protein coupled) receptors, formylpeptide receptors, free fatty acid receptors, galanin receptors, ghrelin receptors, glycoprotein hormone receptors, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone receptors, histamine receptors, KiSSl-derived peptide receptor, leukotriene receptors, lysophospholipid receptors, melanin-concentrating hormone receptors, melanocortin receptors, melatonin receptors, motilin receptors, neuromedin U receptors, neuropeptide FF/neuropeptide AF receptors, neuropeptide S receptors, neuropeptide W/neuropeptide B receptors, neuropeptide Y receptors, neurotensin receptors, nicotinic acid receptor family, opioid receptors, orexin receptors, P2Y receptors, peptide P518 receptor, platelet-activating factor receptor, prokineticin receptors, prolactin- releasing peptide receptor, prostanoid receptors, protease-activating receptors, relaxin family peptide receptors, somatostatin receptors, tachykinin receptors, thyrotropin-releasing hormone receptor, trace amine receptor, urotensin receptor, vasopressin and oxytocin receptors, class A orphans, non- signaling 7TM chemokine-binding proteins, calcitonin receptors, corticotropin-releasing factor receptors, glucagon receptor family, parathyroid hormone receptors, VIP and PACAP receptors, class B orphans, calcium-sensing receptors, GABA B receptors, GPRC5 receptors, metabotropic glutamate receptors, class C orphans, Frizzled receptors, the rhodopsins and other G-protein coupled seven transmembrane segment receptors. GPCRs also include these GPCR receptors associated with each other as homomeric or heteromeric dimers or as higher-order oligomers. The amino acid sequences (and the nucleotide sequences of the cDNAs which encode them) of GPCRs are readily available, for example by reference to GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez). HGNC standardized nomenclature to human genes; accession numbers of different isoforms from different organisms are available from Uniprot (www.uniprot.org). Moreover, a comprehensive overview of receptor nomenclature, pharmacological, functional and pathophysiological information on GPCRs can be retrieved from the IUPHAR database (http://www.iuphar-db.org/). According to a preferred embodiment, the GPCR that forms part of the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, is chosen from the group comprising the adrenergic receptors, preferably the a adrenergic receptors, such as the al adrenergic receptors and the 2 adrenergic receptors, and the β adrenergic receptors, such as the βΐ adrenergic receptors, the β2 adrenergic receptors and the β3 adrenergic receptors; or from the group comprising the muscarinic receptors, preferably the Ml muscarinic receptors, the M2 muscarinic receptors, the M3 muscarinic receptors, the M4 muscarinic receptors and the M5 muscarinic receptors; or from the group comprising the opioid receptor family, preferably the μ opioid receptors (mu or MOP or Mori), the δ opioid receptors (delta or DOP), the κ opioid receptors (kappa or KOP), the NOP opioid receptors, all of which are well known in the art. It will be understood that, depending on the purpose and application, the GPCR comprised in the fusion protein may be a naturally occurring or non-naturally occurring (i.e., altered by man) receptor. The term "naturally-occurring" in reference to a GPCR means a GPCR that is naturally produced. In particular, wild type polymorphic variants and isoforms of GPCRs, as well as orthologs across different species are examples of naturally occurring proteins, and are found for example, and without limitation, in a mammal, more specifically in a human, or in a virus, or in a plant, or in an insect, amongst others). Such GPCRs are found in nature. In addition, the term is intended to encompass wild- type polymorphic variants and certain other variants of the β2 adrenergic receptor from a particular species, including mutants. For example, a "human β2 adrenergic receptor" has an amino acid sequence that is at least 95% identical to (e.g., at least 95% or at least 98% identical to) the naturally occurring "human β2 adrenoreceptor" of Genbank accession number NP_000015. Or also, a "human muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M2" has an amino acid sequence that is at least 95% identical to (e.g., at least 95% or at least 98% identical to) the naturally occurring "human muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M2" of Genbank accession number AAA51570.1. Or also, a "human mu opioid receptor" has an amino acid sequence that is at least 95% identical to (e.g., at least 95% or at least 98% identical to) the naturally occurring "human mu opioid receptor" of Genbank accession number NP_000905. The term "non-naturally occurring" in reference to a GPCR means a GPCR that is not naturally-occurring. Wild-type GPCRs that have been mutated and variants of naturally-occurring GPCRs are examples of non-naturally occurring GPCRs. Non-naturally occurring GPCR may have an amino acid sequence that is at least 80% identical to, at least 90% identical to, at least 95% identical to or at least 99% identical to, a naturally-occurring GPCR. In certain circumstances, it may be advantageous that the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide is a non-naturally occurring protein. For example, and for illustration purposes only, to increase the probability of obtaining crystals of the chimeric polypeptide comprising the GPCR stabilized in a particular conformation, it might be desired to perform some protein engineering without or only minimally affecting the conformation (e.g. active conformation with increased affinity for agonists). Or, alternatively or additionally, to increase cellular expression levels of a GPC , or to increase the stability, one might also consider introducing certain mutations in the GPCR of interest. Non-limiting examples of non-naturally occurring GPCRs include, without limitation, GPCRs that have been made constitutively active through mutation, GPCRs with a loop deletion, GPCRs with an N- and/or C-terminal deletion, GPCRs with a substitution, an insertion or addition, or any combination thereof, in relation to their amino acid or nucleotide sequence, or other variants of naturally-occurring GPCRs. Also comprised within the scope of the present invention are target GPCRs comprising a chimeric or hybrid GPCR, for example a chimeric GPCR with an N- and/or C-terminus from one GPCR and loops of a second GPCR, or comprising a GPCR fused to a moiety, such as T4 lysozyme, Flavodoxin, Xylanase, Rubredoxin or cytochrome b as an utility in GPCR crystallization (Chun et al. 2012 and also described in patent applications WO2012/158555, WO2012/030735, WO2012/148586).

According to specific embodiments within the scope of the present invention, a non-naturally occurring GPCR, as comprised in the chimeric polypeptide, may have an amino acid sequence that is at least 80% identical to, at least 90% identical to, at least 95% identical to, at least 97% identical to, or at least 99% identical to, a naturally-occurring GPCR. Further, it will be appreciated that the present invention also envisages GPCRs with a loop deletion, or an N- and/or C-terminal deletion, or a substitution, or an insertion or addition in relation to its amino acid or nucleotide sequence, or any combination thereof (as defined hereinbefore, and see also Example section).

Binding domain moiety The chimeric polypeptide of the invention comprises at least two polypeptide moieties, one of which is a GPCR (as described hereinbefore), and another one which is a binding domain that is directed against and/or specifically binds to the GPCR.

The term "binding domain", as used herein, means the whole or part of a proteinaceous (protein, protein-like or protein containing) molecule that is capable of binding using specific intermolecular interactions to a GPCR. According to a particular embodiment, the term "binding domain" does not include a naturally-occurring binding partner of a GPCR, e.g. a G protein, an arrestin, an endogenous ligand; or variants or derivatives (including fragments) thereof. More specifically, the term "binding domain" refers to a polypeptide, more particularly a protein domain. A protein binding domain is an element of overall protein structure that is self-stabilizing and often folds independently of the rest of the protein chain. Binding domains vary in length from between about 25 amino acids up to 500 amino acids and more. Many binding domains can be classified into folds and are recognizable, identifiable, 3- D structures. Some folds are so common in many different proteins that they are given special names. Non-limiting examples are binding domains selected from a 3- or 4-helix bundle, an armadillo repeat domain, a leucine-rich repeat domain, a PDZ domain, a SUMO or SUMO-like domain, a cadherin domain, an immunoglobulin-like domain, phosphotyrosine-binding domain, pleckstrin homology domain, src homology 2 domain, amongst others. A binding domain can thus be derived from a naturally occurring molecule, e.g. from components of the innate or adaptive immune system, or it can be entirely artificially designed.

In general, a binding domain can be immunoglobulin-based or it can be based on domains present in proteins, including but limited to microbial proteins, protease inhibitors, toxins, fibronectin, lipocalins, single chain antiparallel coiled coil proteins or repeat motif proteins. Particular examples of binding domains which are known in the art include, but are not limited to: antibodies, heavy chain antibodies (hcAb), single domain antibodies (sdAb), minibodies, the variable domain derived from camelid heavy chain antibodies (VHH or Nanobodies), the variable domain of the new antigen receptors derived from shark antibodies (VNA ), alphabodies, protein A, protein G, designed ankyrin-repeat domains (DARPins), fibronectin type III repeats, anticalins, knottins, engineered CH2 domains (nanoantibodies), engineered SH3 domains, affibodies, peptides and proteins, lipopeptides (e.g. pepducins) (see, e.g., Gebauer & Skerra, 2009; Skerra, 2000; Starovasnik et al., 1997; Binz et al., 2004; Koide et al., 1998; Dimitrov, 2009; Nygren et al. 2008; WO2010066740). Frequently, when generating a particular type of binding domain using selection methods, combinatorial libraries comprising a consensus or framework sequence containing randomized potential interaction residues are used to screen for binding to a molecule of interest, such as a protein.

According to a preferred embodiment, it is particularly envisaged that the binding domain that forms part of the chimeric polypeptide of the invention is derived from an innate or adaptive immune system. Preferably, said binding domain is derived from an immunoglobulin. Preferably, the binding domain according to the invention is derived from an antibody or an antibody fragment. The term "antibody" (Ab) refers generally to a polypeptide encoded by an immunoglobulin gene, or a functional fragment thereof, that specifically binds and recognizes an antigen, and is known to the person skilled in the art. An antibody is meant to include a conventional four-chain immunoglobulin, comprising two identical pairs of polypeptide chains, each pair having one "light" (about 25 kDa) and one "heavy" chain (about 50 kDa). Typically, in conventional immunoglobulins, a heavy chain variable domain (VH) and a light chain variable domain (VL) interact to form an antigen binding site. The term "antibody" is meant to include whole antibodies, including single-chain whole antibodies, and antigen-binding fragments. In some embodiments, antigen-binding fragments may be antigen-binding antibody fragments that include, but are not limited to, Fab, Fab' and F(ab')2, Fd, single-chain Fvs (scFv), single-chain antibodies, disulfide-linked Fvs (dsFv) and fragments comprising or consisting of either a VL or VH domain, and any combination of those or any other functional portion of an immunoglobulin peptide capable of binding to the target antigen. The term "antibodies" is also meant to include heavy chain only antibodies, or fragments thereof, including immunoglobulin single variable domains, as defined further herein. The term "immunoglobulin single variable domain" defines molecules wherein the antigen binding site is present on, and formed by, a single immunoglobulin domain (which is different from conventional immunoglobulins or their fragments, wherein typically two immunoglobulin variable domains interact to form an antigen binding site). It should however be clear that the term "immunoglobulin single variable domain" does comprise fragments of conventional immunoglobulins wherein the antigen binding site is formed by a single variable domain. Preferably, the binding domain moiety within the scope of the present invention is an immunoglobulin single variable domain.

Generally, an immunoglobulin single variable domain will be an amino acid sequence comprising 4 framework regions (FRl to FR4) and 3 complementary determining regions (CDRl to CDR3), preferably according to the following formula (1): FR1-CDR1-FR2-CDR2-FR3-CDR3-FR4 (1), or any suitable fragment thereof (which will then usually contain at least some of the amino acid residues that form at least one of the complementarity determining regions). Immunoglobulin single variable domains comprising 4 FRs and 3 CDRs are known to the person skilled in the art and have been described, as a non-limiting example, in Wesolowski et al. 2009. Typical, but non-limiting, examples of immunoglobulin single variable domains include light chain variable domain sequences (e.g. a VL domain sequence) or a suitable fragment thereof, or heavy chain variable domain sequences (e.g. a VH domain sequence or VHH domain sequence) or a suitable fragment thereof, as long as it is capable of forming a single antigen binding unit. Thus, according to a preferred embodiment, the binding domain moiety is an immunoglobulin single variable domain that is a light chain variable domain sequence (e.g. a VL domain sequence) or a heavy chain variable domain sequence (e.g. a VH domain sequence); more specifically, the immunoglobulin single variable domain is a heavy chain variable domain sequence that is derived from a conventional four-chain antibody or a heavy chain variable domain sequence that is derived from a heavy chain antibody. The immunoglobulin single variable domain may be a domain antibody, or a single domain antibody, or a "dAB" or dAb, or a Nanobody (as defined herein), or another immunoglobulin single variable domain, or any suitable fragment of any one thereof. For a general description of single domain antibodies, reference is made to the following book: "Single domain antibodies", Methods in Molecular Biology, Eds. Saerens and Muyldermans, 2012, Vol 911. The immunoglobulin single variable domains, generally comprise a single amino acid chain that can be considered to comprise 4 "framework sequences" or FR's and 3 "complementary determining regions" or CD 's (as defined hereinbefore). It should be clear that framework regions of immunoglobulin single variable domains may also contribute to the binding of their antigens (Desmyter et al 2002; Korotkov et al. 2009). The delineation of the CDR sequences (and thus also the FR sequences) can be based on the IMGT unique numbering system for V-domains and V-like domains (Lefranc et al. 2003). Alternatively, the delineation of the FR and CDR sequences can be done by using the Kabat numbering system as applied to VHH domains from Camelids in the article of Riechmann and Muyldermans (2000).

It should be noted that the immunoglobulin single variable domains as binding domain moiety in their broadest sense are not limited to a specific biological source or to a specific method of preparation. The term "immunoglobulin single variable domain" encompasses variable domains of different origin, comprising mouse, rat, rabbit, donkey, human, shark, camelid variable domains. According to specific embodiments, the immunoglobulin single variable domains are derived from shark antibodies (the so- called immunoglobulin new antigen receptors or IgNARs), more specific from naturally occurring heavy chain shark antibodies, devoid of light chains, and are known as VNAR domain sequences. Preferably, the immunoglobulin single variable domains are derived from camelid antibodies. More preferably, the immunoglobulin single variable domains are derived from naturally occurring camelid heavy chain only antibodies, devoid of light chains, and are known as VHH domain sequences or Nanobodies.

According to a particularly preferred embodiment, the binding domain moiety as comprised in the chimeric polypeptide of the invention is an immunoglobulin single variable domain that is a Nanobody (as defined further herein, and including but not limited to a VHH). The term "Nanobody" (Nb), as used herein, is a single domain antigen binding fragment. It particularly refers to a single variable domain derived from naturally occurring heavy chain only antibodies and is known to the person skilled in the art. Nanobodies are usually derived from heavy chain only antibodies (devoid of light chains) seen in camelids (Hamers-Casterman et al. 1993; Desmyter et al. 1996) and consequently are often referred to as VHH antibody or VHH sequence. Camelids comprise old world camelids (Camelus bactrianus and Camelus dromedarius) and new world camelids (for example Lama paccos, Lama glama, Lama guanicoe and Lama vicugna). Nanobody® and Nanobodies® are registered trademarks of Ablynx NV (Belgium). For a further description of VHHs or Nanobodies, reference is made to the book "Single domain antibodies", Methods in Molecular Biology, Eds. Saerens and Muyldermans, 2012, Vol 911, in particular to the Chapter by Vincke and Muyldermans (2012), as well as to a non-limiting list of patent applications, which are mentioned as general background art, and include: WO 94/04678, WO 95/04079, WO 96/34103 of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel; WO 94/25591, WO 99/37681, WO 00/40968, WO 00/43507, WO 00/65057, WO 01/40310, WO 01/44301, EP 1 134 231 and WO 02/48193 of Unilever; WO 97/49805, WO 01/21817, WO 03/035694, WO 03/054016 and WO 03/055527 of the Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VI B); WO 04/041867, WO 04/041862, WO 04/041865, WO 04/041863, WO 04/062551, WO 05/044858, WO 06/40153, WO 06/079372, WO 06/122786, WO 06/122787 and WO 06/122825, by Ablynx N.V. and the further published patent applications by Ablynx N .V. As will be known by the person skilled in the art, the Nanobodies are particularly characterized by the presence of one or more Camelidae "hallmark residues" in one or more of the framework sequences (according to Kabat numbering), as described for example in WO 08/020079, on page 75, Table A-3, incorporated herein by reference). It should be noted that the Nanobodies, of the invention in their broadest sense are not limited to a specific biological source or to a specific method of preparation. For example, Nanobodies, can generally be obtained: (1) by isolating the VHH domain of a naturally occurring heavy chain only antibody; (2) by expression of a nucleotide sequence encoding a naturally occurring VHH domain; (3) by "humanization" of a naturally occurring VHH domain or by expression of a nucleic acid encoding a such humanized VHH domain; (4) by "camelization" of a naturally occurring VH domain from any animal species, and in particular from a mammalian species, such as from a human being, or by expression of a nucleic acid encoding such a camelized VH domain; (5) by "camelisation" of a "domain antibody" or "Dab" as described in the art, or by expression of a nucleic acid encoding such a camelized VH domain; (6) by using synthetic or semi-synthetic techniques for preparing proteins, polypeptides or other amino acid sequences known per se; (7) by preparing a nucleic acid encoding a Nanobody using techniques for nucleic acid synthesis known per se, followed by expression of the nucleic acid thus obtained; and/or (8) by any combination of one or more of the foregoing. A further description of Nanobodies, including humanization and/or camelization of Nanobodies, can be found e.g. in WO08/101985 and WO08/142164, as well as further herein. A particular class of Nanobodies that interacts with conformational epitopes of native targets and that stabilizes the target in a unique non-prominent conformation (different than the basal conformation) are called Xaperones and are particularly envisaged here. Xaperones are unique tools in structural biology. Xaperone™ is a trademark of VIB and VUB (Belgium). By rigidifying flexible regions and obscuring aggregative surfaces, Xaperone™ complexes warrant conformationally uniform samples that are key to protein structure determination by X-ray crystallography. Major advantages for the use of camelid antibody fragments as crystallization aid are that Xaperones (1) bind cryptic epitopes and lock proteins in unique native conformations, (2) increase the stability of soluble proteins and solubilized membrane proteins, (3) reduce the conformational complexity of soluble proteins and solubilized membrane proteins, (4) increase the polar surface enabling the growth of diffracting crystals, (5) sequester aggregative or polymerizing surfaces, (6) allow to affinity-trap active protein. Within the scope of the present invention, the term "immunoglobulin single variable domain" also encompasses variable domains that are "humanized" or "camelized", in particular Nanobodies that are "humanized" or "camelized". For example both "humanization" and "camelization" can be performed by providing a nucleotide sequence that encodes a naturally occurring VHH domain or VH domain, respectively, and then changing, in a manner known per se, one or more codons in said nucleotide sequence in such a way that the new nucleotide sequence encodes a "humanized" or "camelized" immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention, respectively. This nucleic acid can then be expressed in a manner known per se, so as to provide the desired immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention. Alternatively, based on the amino acid sequence of a naturally occurring VHH domain or VH domain, respectively, the amino acid sequence of the desired humanized or camelized immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention, respectively, can be designed and then synthesized de novo using techniques for peptide synthesis known per se. Also, based on the amino acid sequence or nucleotide sequence of a naturally occurring VHH domain or VH domain, respectively, a nucleotide sequence encoding the desired humanized or camelized immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention, respectively, can be designed and then synthesized de novo using techniques for nucleic acid synthesis known per se, after which the nucleic acid thus obtained can be expressed in a manner known per se, so as to provide the desired immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention. Other suitable methods and techniques for obtaining the immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention and/or nucleic acids encoding the same, starting from naturally occurring VH sequences or preferably VHH sequences, will be clear from the skilled person, and may for example comprise combining one or more parts of one or more naturally occurring VH sequences (such as one or more FR sequences and/or CDR sequences), one or more parts of one or more naturally occurring VHH sequences (such as one or more FR sequences or CDR sequences), and/or one or more synthetic or semi-synthetic sequences, in a suitable manner, so as to provide a Nanobody of the invention or a nucleotide sequence or nucleic acid encoding the same.

Also within the scope of the invention are natural or synthetic analogs, mutants, variants, alleles, parts or fragments (herein collectively referred to as "variants") of the immunoglobulin single variable domains, in particular the Nanobodies, as defined herein, and in particular variants of the immunoglobulin single variable domains of SEQ ID NOs: 13-20 (see Tables 1-2). Thus, according to one embodiment of the invention, the term "immunoglobulin single variable domain of the invention" or "Nanobody of the invention" in its broadest sense also covers such variants. Generally, in such variants, one or more amino acid residues may have been replaced, deleted and/or added, compared to the immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention as defined herein. Such substitutions, insertions or deletions may be made in one or more of the FRs and/or in one or more of the CDRs, and in particular variants of the F s and CDRs of the immunoglobulin single variable domains of SEQ ID NOs: 13-20 (see Tables 1-2). Variants, as used herein, are sequences wherein each or any framework region and each or any complementarity determining region shows at least 80% identity, preferably at least 85% identity, more preferably 90% identity, even more preferably 95% identity or, still even more preferably 99% identity with the corresponding region in the reference sequence (i.e. FRl_variant versus FRl_reference, CDRl_variant versus CDRl_reference, FR2_variant versus FR2_reference, CDR2_variant versus CDR2_reference, FR3_variant versus FR3_reference, CDR3_variant versus CDR3_reference, FR4_variant versus FR4_reference), as can be measured electronically by making use of algorithms such as PILEUP and BLAST. Software for performing BLAST analyses is publicly available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information (http://www/ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/). It will be understood that for determining the degree of amino acid identity of the amino acid sequences of the CDRs of one or more sequences of the immunoglobulin single variable domains, the amino acid residues that form the framework regions are disregarded. Similarly, for determining the degree of amino acid identity of the amino acid sequences of the FRs of one or more sequences of the immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention, the amino acid residues that form the complementarity regions are disregarded. Such variants of immunoglobulin single variable domains may be of particular advantage since they may have improved potency/affinity.

By means of non-limiting examples, a substitution may for example be a conservative substitution (as described herein) and/or an amino acid residue may be replaced by another amino acid residue that naturally occurs at the same position in another VHH domain. Thus, any one or more substitutions, deletions or insertions, or any combination thereof, that either improve the properties of the immunoglobulin single variable domains or that do not detract from the desired properties or from the balance or combination of desired properties of the immunoglobulin single variable domain (i.e. to the extent that the immunoglobulin single variable domains is no longer suited for its intended use) are included within the scope of the invention. A skilled person will generally be able to determine and select suitable substitutions, deletions or insertions, or suitable combinations of thereof, based on the disclosure herein and optionally after a limited degree of routine experimentation, which may for example involve introducing a limited number of possible substitutions and determining their influence on the properties of the immunoglobulin single variable domains thus obtained. Also encompassed within the scope of the present invention are immunoglobulin single variable domains that are in a "multivalent" form and are formed by bonding, chemically or by recombinant DNA techniques, together two or more monovalent immunoglobulin single variable domains. Non- limiting examples of multivalent constructs include "bivalent" constructs, "trivalent" constructs, "tetravalent" constructs, and so on. The immunoglobulin single variable domains comprised within a multivalent construct may be identical or different. In another particular embodiment, the immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention are in a "multispecific" form and are formed by bonding together two or more immunoglobulin single variable domains, of which at least one with a different specificity. Non-limiting examples of multi-specific constructs include "bi-specific" constructs, "tri-specific" constructs, "tetra-specific" constructs, and so on. To illustrate this further, any multivalent or multispecific (as defined herein) immunoglobulin single variable domain of the invention may be suitably directed against two or more different epitopes on the same antigen, for example against two or more different epitopes of the GPCR; or may be directed against two or more different antigens, for example against an epitope of the GPCR and an epitope of a natural binding partner of the GPCR (e.g. G protein, β-arrestin). In particular, a monovalent immunoglobulin single variable domain of the invention is such that it will bind to the target GPCR with an affinity less than 500 nM, preferably less than 200 nM, more preferably less than 10 nM, such as less than 500 pM. Multivalent or multispecific immunoglobulin single variable domains of the invention may also have (or be engineered and/or selected for) increased avidity and/or improved selectivity for the desired GPCR, and/or for any other desired property or combination of desired properties that may be obtained by the use of such multivalent or multispecific immunoglobulin single variable domains. In a particular embodiment, such multivalent or multispecific binding domains of the invention may also have (or be engineered and/or selected for) improved efficacy in modulating signaling activity of a GPCR (see also further herein). Further, and depending on the host organism used to express the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, deletions and/or substitutions within the binding domain moiety may be designed in such a way that e.g. one or more sites for post-translational modification (such as one or more glycosylation sites) are removed, as will be within the ability of the person skilled in the art. Alternatively, substitutions or insertions may be designed so as to introduce one or more sites for attachment of functional groups (as described further herein).

Screening and selection of binding domain moieties suitable for the invention

A preferred class of binding domains, in particular immunoglobulin single variable domains that form part of the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, is directed against and/or specifically binds to a functional conformational state of a GPCR (as described hereinbefore). Conformationally-selective binding domains, in particular immunoglobulin single variable domains, can be identified in several ways, and will be illustrated hereafter in a non-limiting way for VHHs. Preferably, conformation- selective binding domains can be selected after the step of immunization of a Camelidae with a GPCR in a functional conformational state, optionally bound to a receptor ligand, to expose the immune system of the animal with the conformational epitopes that are unique to the GPCR (for example, agonist-bound GPCR so as to raise antibodies directed against a GPCR in its active conformational state). Optionally, a particular ligand can be coupled to the GPCR of interest by chemical cross-linking. Thus, as further described herein, such VHH sequences can preferably be generated or obtained by suitably immunizing a species of Camelid with a GPCR, preferably a GPCR in a functional conformational state (i.e. so as to raise an immune response and/or heavy chain only antibodies directed against said GPCR), by obtaining a suitable biological sample from said Camelid (such as a blood sample, or any sample of B-cells), and by generating VHH sequences directed against said GPCR, starting from said sample. Such techniques will be clear to the skilled person. Yet another technique for obtaining the desired VHH sequences involves suitably immunizing a transgenic mammal that is capable of expressing heavy chain only antibodies (i.e. so as to raise an immune response and/or heavy chain only antibodies directed against a GPCR in a functional conformational state), obtaining a suitable biological sample from said transgenic mammal (such as a blood sample, or any sample of B- cells), and then generating VHH sequences directed against said GPCR starting from said sample, using any suitable technique known per se. For example, for this purpose, the heavy chain antibody- expressing mice and the further methods and techniques described in WO02085945 and in WO04049794 can be used.

For the immunization of an animal with a GPCR, the GPCR may be produced and purified using conventional methods that may employ expressing a recombinant form of the GPCR in a host cell, and purifying the GPCR using affinity chromatography and/or antibody-based methods. In particular embodiments, the baculovirus/Sf-9 system may be employed for expression, although other expression systems (e.g., bacterial, yeast or mammalian cell systems) may also be used. Exemplary methods for expressing and purifying GCPRs are described in, for example, Kobilka (1995), Eroglu et al (2002), Chelikani et al (2006) and the book "Identification and Expression of G Protein-Coupled Receptors" (Kevin R. Lynch (Ed.), 1998), among many other references. A GPCR may also be reconstituted in phospholipid vesicles. Likewise, methods for reconstituting an active GPCR in phospholipid vesicles are known, and are described in: Luca et al (2003), Mansoor et al (2006), Niu et al. (2005), Shimada et al. (2002), and Eroglu et al. (2003), among others. In certain cases, the GPCR and phospholipids may be reconstituted at high phospholipid density (e.g., 1 mg receptor per mg of phospholipid). In particular embodiments, the phospholipids vesicles may be tested to confirm that the GPCR is active. In many cases, a GPCR may be present in the phospholipid vesicle in both orientations (in the normal orientation, and in the "inside-out" orientation in which the intracellular loops are on the outside of the vesicle). Other immunization methods with a GPCR include, without limitation, the use of complete cells expressing a GPC or fractions thereof, vaccination with a nucleic acid sequence encoding a GPCR (e.g. DNA vaccination), immunization with viruses or virus like particles expressing a GPCR, amongst others (e.g. as described in WO2010070145, WO2011083141).

Any suitable animal, in particular a mammal such as a rabbit, mouse, rat, camel, sheep, cow, shark, pig, amongst others, or a bird such as a chicken or turkey, may be immunized using any of the techniques well known in the art suitable for generating an immune response.

The selection for Nanobodies, as a non-limiting example, specifically binding to a conformational epitope of a functional conformational state of said GPCR may for example be performed by screening a set, collection or library of cells that express heavy chain only antibodies on their surface (e.g. B-cells obtained from a suitably immunized Camelid), or bacteriophages that display a fusion of genlll and Nanobody at their surface, or yeast cells that display a fusion of the mating factor protein Aga2p, by screening of a (naive or immune) library of VHH sequences or Nanobody sequences, or by screening of a (naive or immune) library of nucleic acid sequences that encode VHH sequences or Nanobody sequences, which may all be performed in a manner known per se, and which method may optionally further comprise one or more other suitable steps, such as, for example and without limitation, a step of affinity maturation, a step of expressing the desired amino acid sequence, a step of screening for binding and/or for activity against the desired antigen (in this case, the GPCR), a step of determining the desired amino acid sequence or nucleotide sequence, a step of introducing one or more humanizing substitutions, a step of formatting in a suitable multivalent and/or multispecific format, a step of screening for the desired biological and/or physiological properties (i.e. using a suitable assay known in the art), and/or any combination of one or more of such steps, in any suitable order.

Various methods may be used to determine specific binding (as defined hereinbefore) between the binding domain and a target GPCR, including for example, enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), flow cytometry, radioligand binding assays, surface plasmon resonance assays, phage display, and the like, which are common practice in the art, for example, in discussed in Sambrook et al. (2001), Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual. Third Edition. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, and are further illustrated in the Example section. It will be appreciated that for this purpose often a unique label or tag will be used, such as a peptide label, a nucleic acid label, a chemical label, a fluorescent label, or a radio isotope label, as described further herein. A particularly preferred way of selecting for conformation-selective binding agents is as described in e.g. WO 2012/007593. In an alternative preferred embodiment, selection for conformation-selective binding agents can also be performed by using cell sorting to select, from a population of cells comprising a library of cell-surface tethered extracellular binding agents, cells that are specifically bound to either the GPCR in its active conformation or the GPCR in its inactive conformation, but not both, for example as described in Kruse et al. (2013). Without the purpose of being limitative, selection for conformation-selective binding agents is also further illustrated in the Example section. It is also expected that the binding domain will generally be capable of binding to all naturally occurring or synthetic analogs, variants, mutants, alleles, parts, fragments, and isoforms of a particular GPCR as comprised in the chimeric polypeptide of the invention; or at least to those analogs, variants, mutants, alleles, parts, fragments, and isoforms of a particular GPCR that contain one or more antigenic determinants or epitopes that are essentially the same as the antigenic determinant(s) or epitope(s) to which the binding domains of the invention bind to a particular GPCR.

Linker moiety

Within the context of the present invention, the binding domain moiety and the GPCR moiety (or eventually to still other moieties, as described further herein) may be fused to each other directly or indirectly, whereby indirect coupling usually occurs through the use of intervening amino acid sequences or linker moieties. Preferred "linker molecules" or "linkers" are peptides of 1 to 200 amino acids length, and are typically, but not necessarily, chosen or designed to be unstructured and flexible. For instance, one can choose amino acids that form no particular secondary structure. Or, amino acids can be chosen so that they do not form a stable tertiary structure. Or, the amino acid linkers may form a random coil. Such linkers include, but are not limited to, synthetic peptides rich in Gly, Ser, Thr, Gin, Glu or further amino acids that are frequently associated with unstructured regions in natural proteins (Dosztanyi, Z., Csizmok, V., Tompa, P., & Simon, I. (2005). lUPred: web server for the prediction of intrinsically unstructured regions of proteins based on estimated energy content. Bioinformatics (Oxford, England), 21(16), 3433-4.). Non-limiting examples include (GS)5 or (GS)i0. Other non-limiting examples of suitable linker sequences are also described in the Example section. In many cases, though not necessarily, the effective intramolecular concentration (as defined herein) will depend on the linker length in a GPCR-binding domain fusion. Accordingly, an optimal linker length will be chosen so that the effective intramolecular concentration reaches a maximum value. Preferably, the amino acid linker sequence has a low susceptibility to proteolytic cleavage and does not interfere with the biological activity of chimeric polypeptide. Thus, according to specific embodiments, the amino acid (AA) linker sequence is a peptide of between 0 and 200 AA, between 0 and 150 AA, between 0 and 100 AA, between 0 and 90 AA, between 0 and 80 AA, between 0 and 70 AA, between 0 and 60 AA, between 0 and 50 AA, between 0 and 40 AA, between 0 and 30 amino acids, between 0 and 20 AA, between 0 and 10 amino acids, between 0 and 5 amino acids. Examples of sequences of short linkers include, but are not limited to, PPP, PP or GS.

For certain applications, it may be advantageous that the linker molecule comprises or consists of one or more particular sequence motifs. For example, a proteolytic cleavage site can be introduced into the linker molecule such that GPC moiety and binding domain moiety can be released. Useful cleavage sites are known in the art, and include a protease cleavage site such as Factor Xa cleavage site having the sequence IEGR (SEQ ID NO: 47), the thrombin cleavage site having the sequence LVPR (SEQ ID NO: 48), the enterokinase cleaving site having the sequence DDDDK (SEQ ID NO: 49), or the PreScission (or 3C) cleavage site LEVLFQGP (SEQ ID NO: 50).

In case the binding domain moiety and the GPCR moiety are linked using chemoenzymatic methods for protein modification, the linker moiety may exist of different chemical entities, depending on the enzymes or the synthetic chemistry that is used to produce the covalent chimer in vivo or in vitro (Rabuka 2010). Other moieties and modifications

The chimeric polypeptide of the invention may be further modified and/or may comprise (or can be further fused to) other moieties, as described further herein. Examples of modifications, as well as examples of amino acid residues within the chimeric polypeptide of the invention that can be modified (i.e. either on the protein backbone but preferably on a side chain), methods and techniques that can be used to introduce such modifications and the potential uses and advantages of such modifications will be clear to the skilled person. For example, such a modification may involve the introduction (e.g. by covalent linking or in another suitable manner) of one or more functional groups, residues or moieties into or onto the chimeric polypeptide, in particular into or onto the binding domain moiety or into or onto the GPCR moiety, and/or optionally into or onto the linker moiety. Examples of such functional groups and of techniques for introducing them will be clear to the skilled person, and can generally comprise all functional groups and techniques mentioned in the art as well as the functional groups and techniques known per se for the modification of pharmaceutical proteins, and in particular for the modification of antibodies or antibody fragments (including ScFv's and single domain antibodies), for which reference is for example made to Remington's Pharmaceutical Sciences, 16th ed., Mack Publishing Co., Easton, PA (1980). Such functional groups may for example be linked directly (for example covalently) to the chimeric polypeptide, or optionally via a suitable linker or spacer, as will again be clear to the skilled person. A usually less preferred modification comprises N-linked or O- linked glycosylation, usually as part of co-translational and/or post-translational modification, depending on the host cell used for expressing the chimeric polypeptide of the invention. Yet another modification may comprise the introduction of one or more detectable labels or other signal- generating groups or moieties, depending on the intended use of the labelled chimeric polypeptide. Suitable labels and techniques for attaching, using and detecting them will be clear to the skilled person, and for example include, but are not limited to, fluorescent labels (such as fluorescein, isothiocyanate, rhodamine, phycoerythrin, phycocyanin, allophycocyanin, o-phthaldehyde, and fluorescamine and fluorescent metals such as Eu or others metals from the lanthanide series), phosphorescent labels, chemiluminescent labels or bioluminescent labels (such as luminal, isoluminol, theromatic acridinium ester, imidazole, acridinium salts, oxalate ester, dioxetane or GFP and its analogs ), radio-isotopes, metals, metals chelates or metallic cations or other metals or metallic cations that are particularly suited for use in in vivo, in vitro or in situ detection and imaging, as well as chromophores and enzymes (such as malate dehydrogenase, staphylococcal nuclease, delta- V- steroid isomerase, yeast alcohol dehydrogenase, alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase, triose phosphate isomerase, biotinavidin peroxidase, horseradish peroxidase, alkaline phosphatase, asparaginase, glucose oxidase, beta-galactosidase, ribonuclease, urease, catalase, glucose-VI-phosphate dehydrogenase, glucoamylase and acetylcholine esterase). Other suitable labels will be clear to the skilled person, and for example include moieties that can be detected using NM or ESR spectroscopy. Such labelled chimeric polypeptides of the invention may for example be used for in vitro, in vivo or in situ assays (including immunoassays known per se such as ELISA, RIA, EIA and other "sandwich assays", etc.) as well as in vivo targeting and imaging purposes, depending on the choice of the specific label. As will be clear to the skilled person, another modification may involve the introduction of a chelating group, for example to chelate one of the metals or metallic cations referred to above. Suitable chelating groups for example include, without limitation, diethyl- enetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) or ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). Yet another modification may comprise the introduction of a functional group that is one part of a specific binding pair, such as the biotin-(strept)avidin binding pair. Such a functional group may be used to link the chimeric polypeptide of the invention to another protein, polypeptide or chemical compound that is bound to the other half of the binding pair, i.e. through formation of the binding pair. For example, a chimeric polypeptide of the invention may be conjugated to biotin, and linked to another protein, polypeptide, compound or carrier conjugated to avidin or streptavidin. For example, such a conjugated chimeric polypeptide may be used as a reporter, for example in a detection system where a detectable signal-producing agent is conjugated to avidin or streptavidin. Such binding pairs may for example also be used to bind the chimeric polypeptide of the invention to a carrier, including carriers suitable for pharmaceutical purposes. One non-limiting example are the liposomal formulations described by Cao and Suresh, Journal of Drug Targeting, 8, 4, 257 (2000). Such binding pairs may also be used to link a therapeutically active agent to the chimeric polypeptide of the invention.

Compositions comprising a chimeric polypeptide The chimeric polypeptide of the invention may also comprise (or can be further fused to) other molecules, in particular ligands, including a receptor ligand (such as a full agonist, partial agonist, antagonist, inverse agonist, biased agonist, natural binding partner, and the like). Thus, according to one aspect, the invention also envisages a complex comprising a chimeric polypeptide as described hereinbefore and a receptor ligand. As a non-limiting example, a stable complex may be purified by size exclusion chromatography. In a preferred embodiment, the complex according to the invention is in a solubilized form, such as in a detergent. In an alternative preferred embodiment, the complex according to the invention is immobilized to a solid support. Non-limiting examples of solid supports as well as methods and techniques for immobilization are described further in the detailed description. In still another embodiment, the complex according to the invention is in a cellular composition, including an organism, a tissue, a cell, a cell line, or in a membrane composition or liposomal composition derived from said organism, tissue, cell or cell line. Examples of membrane or liposomal compositions include, but are not limited to organelles, membrane preparations, viruses, virus like lipoparticles (VLPs), and the like. It will be appreciated that a cellular composition, or a membrane or liposomal composition may comprise natural or synthetic lipids. In yet another preferred embodiment, the complex is crystalline. So, a crystal of the complex is also provided, as well as methods of making said crystal, which are described in greater detail below. Preferably, a crystalline form of a complex comprising a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention and a receptor ligand is envisaged.

Accordingly, the present invention also relates to a membrane or liposomal composition comprising a chimeric polypeptide or a complex as described above. Membrane compositions may be derived from a tissue, cell or cell line and include organelles, membrane extracts or fractions thereof, VLPs, viruses, and the like, as long as sufficient functionality of the chimeric polypeptides is retained.

Expression systems

In another aspect, the invention relates to a nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding the chimeric polypeptide of the invention and as described hereinbefore. According to a particular embodiment, the invention relates to a nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, wherein the nucleic acid encodes from 5' to 3':

• a signal peptide,

• an epitope tag,

• a protease cleavage site,

• a GPC of interest,

• a conformation-selective binding domain targeting the GPCR of interest

Alternatively, according to another particular embodiment, the invention relates to a nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, wherein the nucleic acid encodes from 5' to 3':

• a signal peptide,

• an epitope tag,

• a protease cleavage site,

• a conformation-selective binding domain targeting a GPCR of interest,

• the GPCR of interest

Such nucleic acid molecules are exemplified further in the Example section.

Further, the present invention also envisages expression vectors comprising nucleic acid sequences encoding any of chimeric polypeptides of the invention, as well as host cells expressing such expression vectors. Suitable expression systems include constitutive and inducible expression systems in bacteria or yeasts, virus expression systems, such as baculovirus, semliki forest virus and lentiviruses, or transient transfection in insect or mammalian cells. The cloning and/or expression of the chimeric polypeptides of the invention can be done according to techniques known by the skilled person in the art.

The "host cell" according to the present invention can be of any prokaryotic or eukaryotic organism. According to a preferred embodiment, the host cell is a eukaryotic cell and can be of any eukaryotic organism, but in particular embodiments yeast, plant, mammalian and insect cells are envisaged. The nature of the cells used will typically depend on the ease and cost of producing the chimeric polypeptide, the desired glycosylation properties, the origin of the chimeric polypeptide, the intended application, or any combination thereof. Mammalian cells may for instance be used for achieving complex glycosylation, but it may not be cost-effective to produce proteins in mammalian cell systems. Plant and insect cells, as well as yeast typically achieve high production levels and are more cost- effective, but additional modifications may be needed to mimic the complex glycosylation patterns of mammalian proteins. Yeast cells are often used for expression of proteins because they can be economically cultured, give high yields of (medium-secreted) protein, and when appropriately modified are capable of producing proteins having suitable glycosylation patterns. Further, yeast offers established genetics allowing for rapid transformations, tested protein localization strategies, and facile gene knock-out techniques. Insect cells are also an attractive system to express GPC s because insect cells offer an expression system without interfering with mammalian GPCR signaling. Eukaryotic cell or cell lines for protein production are well known in the art, including cell lines with modified glycosylation pathways, and non-limiting examples will be provided hereafter. Animal or mammalian host cells suitable for harboring, expressing, and producing proteins for subsequent isolation and/or purification include Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO), such as CHO-K1 (ATCC CCL-61), DG44 (Chasin et al., 1986; Kolkekar et al., 1997), CHO-K1 Tet-On cell line (Clontech), CHO designated ECACC 85050302 (CAMR, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK), CHO clone 13 (GEIMG, Genova, IT), CHO clone B (GEIMG, Genova, IT), CHO-K1/SF designated ECACC 93061607 (CAMR, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK), RR-CHOK1 designated ECACC 92052129 (CAMR, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK), dihydrofolate reductase negative CHO cells (CHO/-DHFR, Urlaub and Chasin, 1980), and dpl2.CHO cells (U.S. Pat. No. 5,721,121); monkey kidney CV1 cells transformed by SV40 (COS cells, COS-7, ATCC CRL-1651); human embryonic kidney cells (e.g., 293 cells, or 293T cells, or 293 cells subcloned for growth in suspension culture, Graham et al., 1977, J. Gen. Virol., 36:59, or GnTI KO HEK293S cells, Reeves et al. 2002); baby hamster kidney cells (BHK, ATCC CCL-10); monkey kidney cells (CV1, ATCC CCL-70); African green monkey kidney cells (VERO-76, ATCC CRL-1587; VERO, ATCC CCL-81); mouse Sertoli cells (TM4, Mather, 1980, Biol. Reprod., 23:243-251); human cervical carcinoma cells (HELA, ATCC CCL-2); canine kidney cells (MDCK, ATCC CCL-34); human lung cells (W138, ATCC CCL-75); human hepatoma cells (HEP-G2, HB 8065); mouse mammary tumor cells (MMT 060562, ATCC CCL-51); buffalo rat liver cells (BRL 3A, ATCC CRL-1442); TRI cells (Mather, 1982); MCR 5 cells; FS4 cells. According to a particular embodiment, the cells are mammalian cells selected from Hek293 cells or COS cells.

Exemplary non-mammalian cell lines include, but are not limited to, insect cells, such as Sf9 cells/baculovirus expression systems (e.g. review Jarvis, Virology Volume 310, Issue 1, 25 May 2003, Pages 1-7), plant cells such as tobacco cells, tomato cells, maize cells, algae cells, or yeasts such as Saccharomyces species, Schizosaccharomyces species, Hansenula species, Yarrowia species or Pichia species. According to particular embodiments, the eukaryotic cells are yeast cells from a Saccharomyces species (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Schizosaccharomyces sp. (for example Schizosaccharomyces pombe), a Hansenula species (e.g. Hansenula polymorpha), a Yarrowia species (e.g. Yarrowia lipolytica), a Kluyveromyces species (e.g. Kluyveromyces lactis), a Pichia species (e.g. Pichia pastoris), or a Komagataella species (e.g. Komagataella pastoris). According to a specific embodiment, the eukaryotic cells are Pichia cells, and in a most particular embodiment Pichia pastoris cells. Transfection of target cells (e.g. mammalian cells) can be carried out following principles outlined by Sambrook and ussel (Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual, 3rd Edition, Volume 3, Chapter 16, Section 16.1-16.54). In addition, viral transduction can also be performed using reagents such as adenoviral vectors. Selection of the appropriate viral vector system, regulatory regions and host cell is common knowledge within the level of ordinary skill in the art. The resulting transfected cells are maintained in culture or frozen for later use according to standard practices.

Accordingly, another aspect of the invention relates to a method for producing a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention, the method comprising at least the steps of: a) Expressing in a suitable cellular expression system (as defined hereinabove) a nucleic acid encoding a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention, and optionally

b) Isolating and/or purifying said chimeric polypeptide.

The above described conformationally constrained chimeric polypeptides can thus be considered as novel single-protein tools that are particularly useful for screening and drug discovery (in its broadest sense), all of which is now detailed further herein.

Applications The herein described chimeric polypeptides and nucleic acids encoding the same, complexes, cells, and cellular compositions derived thereof, can be used in a variety of contexts and applications, for example and without limitation, (1) for direct separation and/or purification of a chimeric polypeptide as a single protein, wherein the GPCR of interest is stabilized in a constitutive manner in a conformation of interest; (2) for crystallization studies and high-resolution structural analysis of GPCRs by making use of a chimeric polypeptide of the invention; (3) for ligand screening and (structure-based) drug discovery, (4) for stably and constitutively expressing a GPCR as a single fusion protein in a conformation of interest at a cellular surface or in another cellular membrane fraction, all of which will be described into further detail below. Separation and purification methods

One key advantage of the invention is that a GPCR can be separated and purified in a conformation of interest in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry of GPCR to binding domain. A particular advantage of the present invention is that the binding domain in the chimeric polypeptide can stabilize a particular receptor conformation at a very high effective intramolecular concentration, even in the absence of any ligand. In addition, persons of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that binding domains that selectively bind a folded state of a GPCR will protect this GPCR against chemical or thermal denaturation, thus increasing the conformational stability and/or thermostability. Therefore, the chimeric polypeptide can be separated from a mixture, and optionally purified as a single protein wherein the receptor adopts the conformation that is stabilized by the binding domain. This separated or purified chimeric polypeptide is a very useful and direct tool for subsequent crystallization, ligand characterization and compound screening, immunizations, amongst others.

Accordingly, the present invention envisages a method of separating and/or purifying a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain that specifically binds to the GPCR, the method comprising the step of separating and/or purifying the chimeric polypeptide by any suitable means.

Alternatively, it may be desired to first generate a complex of a chimeric polypeptide as described hereinbefore and a receptor ligand (e.g. an orthosteric ligand, an allosteric ligand, a natural binding protein such as a G protein, and the like), which can then subsequently be separated and eventually purified.

Thus, the present invention also envisages a method of separating and/or purifying a complex of a chimeric polypeptide and a receptor ligand, the method comprising the step of separating and/or purifying the complex by any suitable means.

In essence, the same methods that are commonly used to produce and purify GPCRs (see above) can be equally used for the production and purification of the chimeric polypeptides of the present invention. Methods for isolating/purifying chimeric polypeptides as described above include, without limitation, affinity-based methods such as affinity chromatography, affinity purification, immunoprecipitation, protein detection, immunochemistry, surface-display, size exclusion chromatography, ion exchange chromatography, amongst others, and are all well-known in the art. For example, the chimeric polypeptide can be expressed in recombinant form in a host cell, and subsequently purified using affinity chromatography and/or antibody-based methods. In particular embodiments, the baculovirus/Sf-9 system may be employed for expression, although other expression systems (e.g., bacterial, yeast or mammalian cell systems) may also be used (as described further herein).

Crystallography and applications in structure-based drug design One aspect of the present invention relates to the usefulness of the chimeric polypeptides of the invention in X-ray crystallography of GPC s and its applications in structure-based drug design.

Crystallization of membrane proteins including GPCRs remains a challenge. Although expression and purification methods are appearing that allow for the generation of milligram quantities, achieving stability with these molecules is perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome, especially in view of the multiple conformations these proteins can adopt. Increased receptor stability of detergent solubilized GPCRs protects them from proteolytic degradation and/or aggregation and facilitates the purification and concentration of homogenous samples of correctly folded proteins. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that such samples are the preferred starting point for the generation of diffracting crystals. The crystallization process itself is another major bottleneck in the process of macromolecular structure determination by X-ray crystallography. Successful crystallization requires the formation of nuclei and their subsequent growth to crystals of suitable size. Crystal growth generally occurs spontaneously in a supersaturated solution as a result of homogenous nucleation. Proteins may be crystallized in a typical sparse matrix screening experiment, in which precipitants, additives and protein concentration are sampled extensively, and supersaturation conditions suitable for nucleation and crystal growth can be identified for a particular protein. Related to the sparse matrix screening approach is to generate structural variation in the protein itself, for example by adding ligands that bind the protein, or by making different mutations, preferentially in surface residues of the target protein or by trying to crystallize different species orthologues of the target protein. Because crystallization involves an unfavorable loss of conformational entropy in the molecule to be assembled in the crystal lattice, methods that reduce the conformational entropy of the target while still in solution should enhance the likelihood of crystallization by lowering the net entropic penalty of lattice formation. The 'surface entropy reduction' approach has proved to be highly effective (Derewenda 2004). Likewise, binding partners such as ions, small molecule ligands, and peptides can reduce the conformational heterogeneity by binding to and stabilizing a subset of conformational states of a protein. Although such binding partners are effective, not all proteins have a known binding partner, and even when a binding partner is known, its affinity, solubility, and chemical stability may not be compatible with crystallization trials.

Crystallisation of GPC s for high-resolution structural studies is particularly difficult because of the amphipathic surface of these membrane proteins. Embedded in the membrane bilayer, the contact sites of the protein with the acyl chains of the phospholipids are hydrophobic, whereas the polar surfaces are exposed to the polar head groups of the lipids and to the aqueous phases. To obtain well- ordered three-dimensional crystals— a prerequisite to X-ray structural analysis at high resolution— GPCRs are solubilised with the help of detergents and purified as protein-detergent complexes. The detergent micelle covers the hydrophobic surface of the membrane protein in a belt-like manner (Hunte and Michel 2002; Ostermeier et al. 1995). GPCR-detergent complexes form three-dimensional crystals in which contacts between adjacent protein molecules are made by the polar surfaces of the protein protruding from the detergent micelle (Day et al. 2007). Obviously, the detergent micelle requires space in the crystal lattice. Although attractive interactions between the micelles might stabilise the crystal packing (Rasmussen et al. 2007), these interactions do not lead to rigid crystal contacts. Because many membrane proteins, including GPCRs contain relatively small or highly flexible hydrophilic domains, a strategy to increase the probability of getting well-ordered crystals is to enlarge the polar surface of the protein and/or to reduce their flexibility. The most physiologic approach is to use a native signaling partner such as a G protein or arrestin. Unfortunately, interactions of GPCRs with G proteins or arrestins are highly lipid dependent, and it has been difficult to form complexes of sufficient stability for crystallography.

It is thus a particular advantage of the chimeric polypeptide of the invention that the binding domain binds a conformational epitope on the GPCR at a very high effective intramolecular concentration, thus stabilizing the receptor, reducing its conformational flexibility and increasing its polar surface, facilitating the crystallization of a rigid 1 to 1 receptor-binding domain fusion. It is a particular advantage that the chimeric polypeptide of the invention can be crystallized in the absence of any ligand.

It was surprisingly found that the chimeric polypeptides of the present invention can be used as tools to increase the probability of obtaining well-ordered crystals by minimizing the conformational heterogeneity in the GPCR of choice by fusion to a conformationally-selective binding domain in a defined 1:1 stoichiometry. Thus, according to one embodiment, it is envisaged to use the chimeric polypeptides of the invention for crystallization purposes. Advantageously, crystals can be formed of fusion proteins wherein the GPCR is trapped in a particular receptor conformation, more particularly a therapeutically relevant receptor conformation (e.g. an active conformation), as ensured by the choice of a conformationally-selective binding domain that forms part of the fusion protein. The binding domain will also reduce the flexibility of extracellular regions upon binding the GPC to grow well- ordered crystals. Immunoglobulin single variable domains, including Nanobodies, are especially suited for this purpose because they bind conformational epitopes and are composed of one single rigid globular domain, devoid of flexible linker regions unlike conventional antibodies or fragments derived such as Fab's.

Thus, according to a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides for chimeric polypeptides comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain useful as direct tools for crystallizing a GPCR, and eventually to solve the structure. According to a specific embodiment, the present invention also envisages to crystallize a complex of a chimeric polypeptide and a receptor ligand (as defined hereinbefore). In a particularly preferred embodiment of the above method, the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide or complex is in an active state conformation revealing new structural features that are suitable for targeting with small molecules or biologicals and may enable the identification of compounds that are selective for the active conformation. In particular, these new structural features may occur at the orthosteric site or at an allosteric site, allowing the development of new conformation-specific orthosteric or allosteric compounds or fragments thereof, respectively. In another embodiment the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide or complex is in an inactive state conformation (characterized by an increased affinity for inverse agonists and/or by a decreased affinity for agonists as compared to the non-constrained GPCR) or in a functional conformation that leads to β-arrestin dependent signaling (characterized by an increased affinity for β-arrestin biased agonists as compared to the non-constrained GPCR).

Thus, the chimeric polypeptide of the invention, optionally in complex with a receptor ligand, may be crystallized using any of a variety of specialized crystallization methods for membrane proteins, many of which are reviewed in Caffrey (2003 & 2009). In general terms, the methods are lipid-based methods that include adding lipid to the complex prior to crystallization. Such methods have previously been used to crystallize other membrane proteins. Many of these methods, including the lipidic cubic phase crystallization method and the bicelle crystallization method, exploit the spontaneous self- assembling properties of lipids and detergent as vesicles (vesicle-fusion method), discoidal micelles (bicelle method), and liquid crystals or mesophases (in meso or cubic-phase method). Lipidic cubic phases crystallization methods are described in, for example: Landau et al. 1996; Gouaux 1998; Rummel et al. 1998; Nollert et al. 2004, Rasmussen et al. 2011a,b, which publications are incorporated by reference for disclosure of those methods. Bicelle crystallization methods are described in, for example: Faham et al. 2005; Faham et al. 2002, which publications are incorporated by reference for disclosure of those methods.

According to another embodiment, the invention relates to the use of a chimeric polypeptide as described herein to solve a structure of a GPC -binding domain fusion, and optionally further comprising a receptor ligand. "Solving the structure" as used herein refers to determining the arrangement of atoms or the atomic coordinates of a protein, and is often done by a biophysical method, such as X-ray crystallography.

In many cases, obtaining a diffraction-quality crystal is the key barrier to solving its atomic-resolution structure. Thus, according to specific embodiments, the herein described chimeric polypeptides can be used to improve the diffraction quality of the crystals so that the crystal structure of the GPCR-binding domain fusion can be solved.

Further, obtaining structural information of GPCR targets, for example to help guide GPCR drug discovery, is highly desired. Beyond the crystallization of more GPCRs, especially methods for acquiring structures of receptors bound to lead compounds that have pharmacological or biological activity and whose chemical structure is used as a starting point for chemical modifications in order to improve potency, selectivity, or pharmacokinetic parameters. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the chimeric polypeptide of the invention is particularly suited for co-crystallization with lead compounds that are selective for a non-prominent functional conformation (different from the basal conformation) induced by the binding domain because this binding domain is able to substantially increase the affinity for conformation-selective compounds.

According to another embodiment, the invention allows to crystallize the chimeric polypeptide in the absence of any ligand starting from a defined 1:1 stoichiometry between receptor and binding domain whereby the high effective intramolecular concentration of the conformation-selective binding domain can stabilize the receptor in the desired conformation within the crystal lattice. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that such preformed crystals of a free receptor, stabilized in a particular functional conformation are an ideal starting point for soaking experiments, aiming at solving structures of the receptor in complex with fragments or compounds that bind to the receptor in the conformation induced by the binding domain.

According to another embodiment, the present invention encompasses a method of determining the crystal structure of a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR-binding domain fusion, the method comprising the steps of: a) Providing a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention, and

b) Allowing the chimeric polypeptide to crystallize

In particular embodiments of the above method of determining the crystal structure, the chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPC -binding domain fusion further comprises a receptor ligand, more specifically an agonist, an inverse agonist, etc. bound to the GPCR.

Said determining of the crystal structure may be done by a biophysical method such as X-ray crystallography. The method may further comprise a step for obtaining the atomic coordinates of the crystal (as defined hereinbefore).

Ligand screening and drug discovery Other applications are particularly envisaged by making use of the chimeric polypeptides of the invention, or advantageously, by making direct use of the host cells or cell cultures comprising chimeric polypeptides according to the invention, or by using membrane preparations derived thereof, including compound screening and immunizations, which will be described further herein.

In the process of compound screening, lead optimization and drug discovery (including antibody discovery), there is a requirement for faster, more effective, less expensive and especially information- rich screening assays that provide simultaneous information on various compound characteristics and their effects on various cellular pathways (i.e. efficacy, specificity, toxicity and drug metabolism). Thus, there is a need to quickly and inexpensively screen large numbers of compounds in order to identify new specific ligands of a protein of interest, preferably conformation-selective ligands, which may be potential new drug candidates. The present invention solves this problem by providing GPCR drug targets that are stabilized in a non-prominent druggable conformation, due to the high effective intramolecular concentration of the conformation-selective binding domain that is covalently bound in a 1 to 1 stoichiometry. This allows to quickly and reliably identify and differentiate between ligands of different functional profiles, including ligands with an agonist profile, an inverse agonist profile, an antagonist profile, a biased agonist profile, etc., in a single assay, so increasing the speed and likelihood of identifying a ligand with the desired pharmacological properties. In particular, the chimeric polypeptides and host cells comprising the same, as well as host cell cultures or membrane preparations derived thereof are provided, for which specific preferences have been described hereinbefore, are particularly suitable for this purpose. Thus, these chimeric polypeptides, host cells, as well as host cell cultures or membrane preparations derived thereof, can then be used as immunogens or selection reagents for screening in a variety of contexts. Thus, according to a preferred embodiment, the present invention encompasses the use of the chimeric polypeptides, host cells, host cell cultures, or membrane preparations derived thereof, according to the invention and as described hereinbefore, in screening and/or identification programs for conformation-selective compounds of a GPCR, which ultimately might lead to potential new drug candidates.

According to one embodiment, the invention envisages a method of identifying conformation-selective compounds, the method comprising the steps of

(i) Providing a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention, and

(ii) Providing a test compound, and

(iii) Evaluating the selective binding of the test compound to the GPCR comprised in the

chimeric polypeptide, and

(iv) Selecting a conformationally-selective compound.

Specific preferences for the chimeric polypeptides, host cells, host cell cultures and membrane preparations thereof are as defined above with respect to earlier aspects of the invention. In a particular embodiment of the above method, the conformation-selective compound is a compound selective for an active conformation of the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide. In another particular embodiment of the above method, the conformation-selective compound is a compound selective for an inactive conformation of the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide. In still another embodiment of the above method, the conformation-selective compound is a compound selective for a functional conformation that leads to β-arrestin dependent signaling or any other functional conformation of interest.

In a preferred embodiment, the chimeric polypeptides as used in any of the screening methods described further herein, are provided as whole cells, or cell (organelle) extracts such as membrane extracts or fractions thereof, or may be incorporated in lipid layers or vesicles (comprising natural and/or synthetic lipids), high-density lipoparticles, or any nanoparticle, such as nanodisks, or are provided as virus or virus-like particles (VLPs), so that sufficient functionality of the respective proteins is retained. Methods for preparations of GPCR-containing chimeric polypeptides from membrane fragments or membrane-detergent extracts are reviewed in detail in Cooper (2004), incorporated herein by reference. Alternatively, the chimeric polypeptides may also be solubilized in detergents. Screening assays for drug discovery can be solid phase (e.g. beads, columns, slides, chips or plates) or solution phase assays, e.g. a binding assay, such as radioligand binding assays. In high-throughput assays, it is possible to screen up to several thousand different compounds in a single day in 96-, 384- or 1536-well formats. For example, each well of a microtiter plate can be used to run a separate assay against a selected potential modulator, or, if concentration or incubation time effects are to be observed, every 5-10 wells can test a single modulator. Thus, a single standard microtiter plate can assay about 96 modulators. It is possible to assay many plates per day; assay screens for up to about 6.000, 20.000, 50.000 or more different compounds are possible today.

Various methods may be used to determine binding between the stabilized GPCR and a test compound, including for example, flow cytometry, radioligand binding assays, enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), surface plasmon resonance assays, chip-based assays, immunocytofluorescence, yeast two-hybrid technology and phage display which are common practice in the art, for example, in Sambrook et al. (2001), Molecular Cloning, A Laboratory Manual. Third Edition. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Other methods of detecting binding between a test compound and a membrane protein include ultrafiltration with ion spray mass spectroscopy/HPLC methods or other (bio)physical and analytical methods. Fluorescence Energy Resonance Transfer (FRET) methods, for example, well known to those skilled in the art, may also be used. It will be appreciated that a bound test compound can be detected using a unique label or tag associated with the compound, such as a peptide label, a nucleic acid label, a chemical label, a fluorescent label, or a radio isotope label, as described further herein.

In one embodiment, it is determined whether the compound alters the binding of the GPCR as comprised in the chimeric polypeptide to a receptor ligand (as defined herein). Binding of a GPCR to its ligand can be assayed using standard ligand binding methods known in the art as described herein. For example, a ligand may be radiolabeled or fluorescently labeled. The assay may be carried out on whole cells or on membranes obtained from the cells or aqueous solubilized receptor with a detergent. The compound will be characterized by its ability to alter the binding of the labeled ligand (see also Example section). The compound may decrease the binding between the GPCR and its ligand, or may increase the binding between the GPCR and its ligand, for example by a factor of at least 2 fold, 3 fold, 4 fold, 5 fold, 10 fold, 20 fold, 30 fold, 50 fold, 100 fold.

According to a particularly preferred embodiment, the above described method of identifying conformation-selective compounds is performed by a ligand binding assay or competition assay, even more preferably a radioligand binding or competition assay. Most preferably, the above described method of identifying conformation-selective compounds is performed in a comparative assay, more specifically, a comparative ligand competition assay, even more specifically a comparative radioligand competition assay, which is illustrated further in the Example section.

In case the above described method is performed in a comparative assay, it will be understood that the method will comprise the step of comparing the binding of a test compound for a GPCR comprised in a chimeric polypeptide wherein the GPCR is stabilized by a conformation-selective binding domain moiety in a functional conformation of interest (e.g. an active conformation or an inactive conformation) with the binding of the test compound to a control. Within the scope of the invention, the control can be the corresponding non-fused GPCR or a chimeric polypeptide of the corresponding GPCR fused to a mock binding domain moiety (also referred to as control binding moiety or irrelevant binding moiety) which is a binding domain moiety that is not directed to and/or does not specifically bind to the corresponding GPCR.

In a particular preferred embodiment, the step of evaluating the selective binding of the test compound to the GPCR comprised in the chimeric polypeptide in any of the above described methods is done by measuring and/or calculating the affinity (as defined herein) of the test compound for the chimeric polypeptide, as is also further illustrated in the Example section.

Often high-throughput screening of GPCR targets for conformation-selective compounds will be preferred. This will be facilitated by immobilization of a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention onto a suitable solid surface or support that can be arrayed or otherwise multiplexed. Non- limiting examples of suitable solid supports include beads, columns, slides, chips or plates. More particularly, the solid supports may be particulate (e. g. beads or granules, generally used in extraction columns) or in sheet form (e. g. membranes or filters, glass or plastic slides, microtitre assay plates, dipstick, capillary fill devices or such like) which can be flat, pleated, or hollow fibres or tubes. The following matrices are given as examples and are not exhaustive, such examples could include silica (porous amorphous silica), i. e. the FLASH series of cartridges containing 60A irregular silica (32- 63 um or 35-70 um) supplied by Biotage (a division of Dyax Corp.), agarose or polyacrylamide supports, for example the Sepharose range of products supplied by Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, or the Affi-Gel supports supplied by Bio-Rad. In addition there are macroporous polymers, such as the pressure-stable Affi-Prep supports as supplied by Bio-Rad. Other supports that could be utilised include; dextran, collagen, polystyrene, methacrylate, calcium alginate, controlled pore glass, aluminium, titanium and porous ceramics. Alternatively, the solid surface may comprise part of a mass dependent sensor, for example, a surface plasmon resonance detector. Further examples of commercially available supports are discussed in, for example, Protein Immobilisation, .F. Taylor ed.., Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, (1991).

Immobilization may be either non-covalent or covalent. In particular, non-covalent immobilization or adsorption on a solid surface of chimeric polypeptide according to the invention may occur via a surface coating with any of an antibody, or streptavidin or avidin, or a metal ion, recognizing a molecular tag attached to the chimeric polypeptide, according to standard techniques known by the skilled person (e.g. Strep tag, Histidine tag, etc.).

In particular, the chimeric polypeptide may be attached to a solid surface by covalent cross-linking using conventional coupling chemistries. A solid surface may naturally comprise cross- linkable residues suitable for covalent attachment or it may be coated or derivatised to introduce suitable cross-linkable groups according to methods well known in the art. In one particular embodiment, sufficient functionality of the immobilised protein is retained following direct covalent coupling to the desired matrix via a reactive moiety that does not contain a chemical spacer arm. Further examples and more detailed information on immobilization methods of antibody (fragments) on solid supports are discussed in Jung et al. (2008); similarly, membrane receptor immobilization methods are reviewed in Cooper (2004); both herein incorporated by reference.

Advances in molecular biology, particularly through site-directed mutagenesis, enable the mutation of specific amino acid residues in a protein sequence. The mutation of a particular amino acid (in a protein with known or inferred structure) to a lysine or cysteine (or other desired amino acid) can provide a specific site for covalent coupling, for example. It is also possible to reengineer a specific protein to alter the distribution of surface available amino acids involved in the chemical coupling (Kallwass et al, 1993), in effect controlling the orientation of the coupled protein. A similar approach can be applied to the chimeric polypeptides according to the invention, so providing a means of oriented immobilisation without the addition of other peptide tails or domains containing either natural or unnatural amino acids. It will be understood that a mutation can be introduced in the GPCR moiety and/or the binding domain moiety of the chimeric polypeptide and needs to be carefully chosen so not to interfere with structural conformations and/or biological activity. For example, in case a mutation will be introduced in the binding domain moiety that is an antibody or an antibody fragment, such as a Nanobody, introduction of mutations in the framework region is preferred, minimising disruption to the antigen-binding activity of the antibody (fragment).

Conveniently, the immobilised proteins may be used in immunoadsorption processes such as immunoassays, for example ELISA, or immunoaffinity purification processes by contacting the immobilised proteins according to the invention with a test sample according to standard methods conventional in the art. Alternatively, and particularly for high-throughput purposes, the immobilized proteins can be arrayed or otherwise multiplexed. Preferably, the immobilised proteins according to the invention are used for the screening and selection of compounds that selectively bind to a particular conformation of a GPC .

It will be appreciated that either the binding domain moiety or the GPCR moiety that form part of the fusion may be immobilized, depending on the type of application or the type of screening that needs to be done. Also, the choice of the GPCR-stabilizing binding domain (targeting a particular conformational epitope of the GPCR), will determine the orientation of the GPCR and accordingly, the desired outcome of the compound identification, e.g. compounds specifically binding to extracellular parts, intramembranal parts or intracellular parts of said conformationally stabilized GPCR.

In an alternative embodiment, the test compound (or a library of test compounds) may be immobilized on a solid surface, such as a chip surface, whereas the chimeric polypeptide are provided, for example, in a detergent solution or in a membrane-like preparation. Accordingly, in one specific embodiment, a solid support to which is immobilized a chimeric polypeptide according to the invention is provided for use in any of the above screening methods.

Most preferably, neither the chimeric polypeptide, nor the test compound is immobilized, for example in phage-display selection protocols in solution, or radioligand binding assays.

The compounds to be tested can be any small chemical compound, or a macromolecule, such as a protein, a sugar, nucleic acid or lipid. Typically, test compounds will be small chemical compounds, peptides, antibodies or fragments thereof. It will be appreciated that in some instances the test compound may be a library of test compounds. In particular, high-throughput screening assays for therapeutic compounds such as agonists, antagonists or inverse agonists and/or modulators form part of the invention. For high-throughput purposes, compound libraries or combinatorial libraries may be used such as allosteric compound libraries, peptide libraries, antibody libraries, fragment-based libraries, synthetic compound libraries, natural compound libraries, phage-display libraries and the like. Methodologies for preparing and screening such libraries are known to those of skill in the art.

The test compound may optionally be covalently or non-covalently linked to a detectable label. Suitable detectable labels and techniques for attaching, using and detecting them will be clear to the skilled person, and include, but are not limited to, any composition detectable by spectroscopic, photochemical, biochemical, immunochemical, electrical, optical or chemical means. Useful labels include magnetic beads (e.g. dynabeads), fluorescent dyes (e.g. all Alexa Fluor dyes, fluorescein isothiocyanate, Texas red, rhodamine, green fluorescent protein and the like), radiolabels (e.g. 3H, 125l, 35S, 14C, or 32P), enzymes (e.g. horse radish peroxidase, alkaline phosphatase), and colorimetric labels such as colloidal gold or colored glass or plastic (e.g. polystyrene, polypropylene, latex, etc.) beads. Means of detecting such labels are well known to those of skill in the art. Thus, for example, radiolabels may be detected using photographic film or scintillation counters, fluorescent markers may be detected using a photodetector to detect emitted illumination. Enzymatic labels are typically detected by providing the enzyme with a substrate and detecting the reaction product produced by the action of the enzyme on the substrate, and colorimetric labels are detected by simply visualizing the colored label. Other suitable detectable labels were described earlier within the context of the first aspect of the invention relating to the chimeric polypeptide of the invention.

Thus, according to specific embodiments, the test compound as used in any of the above screening methods is selected from the group comprising a polypeptide, a peptide, a small molecule, a natural product, a peptidomimetic, a nucleic acid, a lipid, lipopeptide, a carbohydrate, an antibody or any fragment derived thereof, such as Fab, Fab' and F(ab')2, Fd, single-chain Fvs (scFv), single-chain antibodies, disulfide-linked Fvs (dsFv) and fragments comprising either a VL or VH domain, a heavy chain antibody (hcAb), a single domain antibody (sdAb), a minibody, the variable domain derived from camelid heavy chain antibodies (VHH or Nanobody), the variable domain of the new antigen receptors derived from shark antibodies (VNA ), a protein scaffold including an alphabody, protein A, protein G, designed ankyrin-repeat domains (DARPins), fibronectin type III repeats, anticalins, knottins, engineered CH2 domains (nanoantibodies), as defined hereinbefore.

In one preferred embodiment, high throughput screening methods involve providing a combinatorial chemical or peptide library containing a large number of potential therapeutic ligands. Such "combinatorial libraries" or "compound libraries" are then screened in one or more assays, as described herein, to identify those library members (particular chemical species or subclasses) that display a desired characteristic activity. A "compound library" is a collection of stored chemicals usually used ultimately in high-throughput screening A "combinatorial library" is a collection of diverse chemical compounds generated by either chemical synthesis or biological synthesis, by combining a number of chemical "building blocks". Preparation and screening of combinatorial libraries are well known to those of skill in the art. The compounds thus identified can serve as conventional "lead compounds" or can themselves be used as potential or actual therapeutics. Thus, in one further embodiment, the screening methods as described herein above further comprises modifying a test compound which has been shown to selectively bind to a chimeric polypeptide comprising a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPC in a particular conformation, and determining whether the modified test compound binds to the GPCR when residing in the particular conformation.

Thus, according to more specific embodiments, a complex comprising a chimeric polypeptide of the invention and a receptor ligand may be used in any of the above screening methods. Preferably, the receptor ligand is chosen from the group comprising a small molecule, a polypeptide, an antibody or any fragment derived thereof, a natural product, and the like. More preferably, the receptor ligand is a full agonist, or a partial agonist, a biased agonist, an antagonist, or an inverse agonist, as described hereinbefore. It may be desirable to identify and characterize natural or endogenous ligands of target GPCRs. In particular, there is a need to "de-orphanise" GPCRs for which a natural activating ligand has not been identified. Such ligands may be recovered from biological samples such as blood or tissue extract or from libraries of ligands. Thus, according to a particular embodiment, the test compound as used in any of the above screening methods is provided as a biological sample. In particular, the sample can be any suitable sample taken from an individual. For example, the sample may be a body fluid sample such as blood, serum, plasma, spinal fluid.

Although the screening methods as described above are sufficient to determine the functional profile of compounds, the functional effect of a compound on downstream signaling of the target GPCR may be additionally evaluated in secondary assays. Therefore, the efficacy of the compounds and/or compositions comprising the same, can be tested using any suitable in vitro assay, cell-based assay, in vivo assay and/or animal model known per se, or any combination thereof, depending on the specific disease or disorder involved.

It will be appreciated that the chimeric polypeptides, host cells and derivatives thereof, according to the present invention, may be further engineered and are thus particularly useful tools for the development or improvement of cell-based assays. Cell-based assays are critical for assessing the mechanism of action of new biological targets and biological activity of chemical compounds. For example, without the purpose of being limitative, current cell-based assays for GPCRs include measures of pathway activation (Ca2+ release, cAMP generation or transcriptional activity); measurements of protein trafficking by tagging GPCRs and downstream elements with GFP; and direct measures of interactions between proteins using Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) or yeast two-hybrid approaches. Further, it may be particularly advantageous to immunize an animal with a chimeric polypeptide of the invention, or a host cell or derivative thereof comprising the same, in order to raise antibodies, preferably conformationally-selective antibodies against the target GPC . Thus, such immunization methods are also envisaged here. Methods for raising antibodies in vivo are known in the art, and are also described hereinbefore. Any suitable animal, e.g., a mammal such as a rabbit, mouse, rat, camel, sheep, cow, pig, or a bird such as a chicken or turkey, or a fish, such as a shark, may be immunized using any of the techniques well known in the art suitable for generating an immune response. Following immunization, expression libraries encoding immunoglobulin genes, or portions thereof, expressed in bacteria, yeast, filamentous phages, ribosomes or ribosomal subunits or other display systems, can be made according to well-known techniques in the art. Further to that, the antibody libraries that are generated comprise a collection of suitable test compounds for use in any of the screening methods as described hereinbefore. The antibodies that have been raised as described herein above may also be useful diagnostic tools to specifically detect GPCRs in a particular conformational state, and thus also form part of the present invention. In one embodiment, the immobilized chimeric polypeptides (as described hereinbefore) may be used for the selection of binding domains including antibodies or antibody fragments or peptides that bind the conformationally stabilized receptor. Persons of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that such binding domains, as a non-limiting example, can be selected by screening a set, collection or library of cells that express binding domains on their surface, or bacteriophages that display a fusion of genlll and Nanobody at their surface, or yeast cells that display a fusion of the mating factor protein Aga2p, or by ribosome display amongst others.

One particular embodiment relates to the use of such immobilized chimeric polypeptides for the isolation of binding domains that are selective for the conformation of the receptor that is induced by the high effective intramolecular concentration of the conformation-selective binding domain that is covalently bound to the receptor in a 1 to 1 stoichiometry

Still another aspect of the invention relates to a kit comprising a chimeric polypeptide of the invention, or a host cell or a host cell culture or a membrane preparation according to the invention. The kit may further comprise a combination of reagents such as buffers, molecular tags, vector constructs, reference sample material, as well as a suitable solid supports, and the like. Such a kit may be useful for any of the applications of the present invention as described herein. For example, the kit may comprise (a library of) test compounds useful for compound screening applications. The following examples are intended to promote a further understanding of the present invention. While the present invention is described herein with reference to illustrated embodiments, it should be understood that the invention is not limited hereto. Those having ordinary skill in the art and access to the teachings herein will recognize additional modifications and embodiments within the scope thereof. Therefore, the present invention is limited only by the claims attached herein.

EXAMPLES

Example 1: Generation of P2AR-Nanobody fusion protein constructs

The GPCR-Nanobody fusions described in this example are chimeric polypeptides that contain two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR βΙΑΚ, the linker GGGGSGGGS (SEQ ID NO: 51) and a Nanobody, all of which were fused in this order from the amino to the carboxy terminus. Genes encoding these proteins were fused as described below (Figure 2) and cloned in the pFastBacl vector (Invitrogen, cat. Nr 10359-016).

The GPCR part was amplified from DNA encoding the cleavable hemagglutinin (HA) protein signal peptide (SP) derived from influenza virus (MKTNALSYIFCLVFA; SEQ ID NO: 52) followed by the Flag epitope (DYKDDDDA; SEQ ID NO: 53) followed by a TEV cleavage site (ENLYFQGF; SEQ ID NO: 54) followed by the coding sequence of human β2 adrenergic receptor encompassing Gly2 to Gly365 (SEQ ID NO: 55). A point mutation of N187E was also introduced to the construct to disrupt this unwanted glycosylation site ( 2AR365N; Rasmussen et al., 2011b). The β2 adrenergic receptor engineering to 2AR365N was performed to increase the receptor's cellular expression levels in Sf9 cells. Nanobody gene segments were amplified from phagemids encoding the respective Nanobodies. Nb80 (SEQ ID NO: 13) is a βΙΑΚ specific Nanobody that stabilizes the active state of the βΙΑΚ bound to full agonists such as BI-167107 (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). Nb71 (SEQ ID NO: 14) is another βΙΑΚ specific Xaperone that stabilizes an active state (WO2012007593). Nb69 (SEQ ID NO: 15) is specific for the Muscarinic3 receptor and has no detectable affinity for 2AR. The GPCR and the Nanobody were genetically fused in frame by an overlap extension PCR. Therefore 20ng of plasmid containing the GPCR cDNA was used as the template in a 50μΙ PCR reaction (Pfu polymerase, Fermentas, cat. Nr EP0501) containing 4% of DMSO to amplify the 2AR encoding DNA using primer EP211 (5'-GCGGAATTCGAGCTCGCC-3'; SEQ ID NO: 56) and primer EP207 (5'- CCTCCGCCGGATCCGCCACCTCCTCCACTCTGCTCCCCTGTG-3'; SEQ ID NO: 57). Primer EP211 harbors an EcoRI restriction site at the 5' end of the coding sequence. Primer EP207 incorporates part of the GGGGSGGGS (SEQ I D NO: 51) linker at the C-terminus of the receptor. The amplification conditions for this reaction were 2min 95°C, 35 cycles of 30sec 94°C, 30sec 50°C, lmin30sec 72°C followed by 10 min at 72°C to amplify the GPCR encoding part of the open reading frame of the fusion.

N b69, N b71 and N b80 all have identical N-terminal and C-terminal sequences. Nanobody DNA's were amplified with a Pfu polymerase in a PCR in 50μΙ using 5ng of each construct with primer EP206 (GGCGGATCCGGCGGAGGTTCGCAGGTGCAGCTGCAGGAGTCTGGGGGAGG; SEQ I D NO: 58) to incorporate an overlapping part of the GGGGSGGGS linker at the N-terminus of the Nanobody and EP202 (TGGAATTCTAGATTAGTGATGGTGATGGTGGTGTGAGGAGACGGTGACCTGGGT; SEQ I D NO: 59) to add the sequence of a His6-tag at the C-terminal end of the fusion protein incorporating an Xbal cloning site at the 3' end of the gene. The following amplification conditions were used 2min 95°C, 30 cycles of 30sec 94°C, 30sec 50°C, lmin 72°C followed by 10 min at 72°C to amplify the Nanobody encoding part of the hybrids.

PCR fragments encoding the GPCR or a Nanobody were purified using the PCR purification kit (Promega) and used as templates in a new 50μΙ PCR reaction: 20ng of the EP211- 2AR-EP207 (EP211 and EP207 refers to the primers that have been used for PCR amplification) amplified PCR fragment was mixed with approximately 20ng of amplified EP206-Nanobody-EP202 fragment and fused with KapaTaq polymerase (Sopaghem, cat. Nr BK1002) by overlap extension as follows. After melting for 2min at 95°C and 5 cycles of 30sec 95°C, 30sec 55°C , lmin 45sec, the fused 2AR-Nanobody open reading frames were amplified using primers EP202 and EP211 in 28 cycles (30sec 95°C, 30sec 55°C, lmin 45sec 72°C) followed by lOmin at 72°C. PCR fragments containing the different 2AR-Nanobody open reading frames were purified separately, cloned as an EcoR\-Xba\ fragment in pFastBacl and transformed in E. coli ToplO. Plasmid DNA was prepared from single colonies and the sequence of the open reading frames was confirmed by sequencing. Constructs were designated pFastBac 2AR365N- N b80 (Lab reference CA6836), pFastBac 2AR365N-N b69 (Lab reference CA6833), and pFastBac 2AR365N-N b71 (Lab reference CA6835). The amino acid sequences encoded by the different 2AR365N-N b fusion constructs are given in Figure 2 (SEQ I D NOs: 1-4).

Example 2: Expression of P2AR-Nanobody fusions in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells

To produce bacmids encoding 2AR-Nanobody fusions, one ng of each pFastBac 2AR365N-Nanobody fusion was transformed into the DH lOBac™ cells using the Bac-to-Bac® Baculovirus Expression system according to the manufacturer's instructions (Invitrogen, cat. Nr 10359-016) and plated overnight on a fresh LB agar plate with 50μg/ml kanamycin, 7μg/ml gentamicin, 10μg/ml tetracycline, 100μg/ml X-gal and 40μg/ml I PTG. White colonies were picked, bacmids were purified and the sequences of the 2AR- Nanobody open reading frames confirmed. A plasmid encoding the 2AR open reading frame, devoid of the linker and a Nanobody (pFastBac 2AR365N) was also transformed into the DH lOBac™ cells to produce a bacmid encoding non-fused receptor as a control. Recombinant baculovirus was produced by transfecting the 2AR-Nanobody bacmids and the 2AR365N bacmid in Sf9 cells. For each bacmid a transfection mix was prepared by mixing 1ml Grace's unsupplemented insect cell culture medium (Sigma , cat. Nr G8142), 15μί of Cellfectin I I (Invitrogen, cat. Nr 10362-100) and 5μί of bacmid DNA (approximately 3μg). This transfection mix was preincubated for 20 minutes at RT. Next, lxlO7 pelleted Sf9 cells were resuspended in the transfection mix and shaken at 27°C. After 4 hours 4ml of protein free ESF 921 Sf9 medium (Expression systems LLC, cat. Nr 96-001) was added and cells were grown for 48hrs at 27°C and 130rpm. An extra 5ml of ESF 921 Sf9 medium was added and cells were incu bated for another 24h to 40h before harvesting the PI recombinant baculovirus stock (PI) by centrifugation. A P2 recombinant baculovirus stock was made by diluting PI 100 times in a fresh Sf9 culture at a density of 3x10s cells/ml and culturing at 27°C and 130rpm. P2 virus stocks were harvested by centrifugation 72h after infection. Recombinant expression of the different 2AR365N-N b fusions was accomplished through the infection of freshly grown Sf9 cells at a density of 4 million/ml ( 1: 100 to 1:250) with the P2 baculovirus stocks. Infected cells were cultured for 48h to 55h at 27°C (130rpm) before harvesting. The expression of GPCR-Nanobody hybrids was confirmed by fluorescence microscopy on live cells (Example 3). Cells expressing the recombinant protein were washed twice with ice cold PBS (Life technologies, cat. Nr 10010-023) supplemented with 1.5mM EDTA, pelleted and stored at -80°C.

Example 3: Confirming expression of P2AR-Nanobody fusion proteins by fluorescence microscopy

To monitor the expression of the different 2AR365N-N b fusions, non-infected Sf9 cells and Sf9 cells infected with a PI recombinant baculovirus stock (harvested after 72hrs of infection) were analyzed for receptor expression using fluorescence microscopy. For this purpose 15μΙ of each cell culture was diluted in 8-well μ-slides (Ibidi, cat. Nr 80821) into 200μΙ of PBS containing ^g of a mouse anti Flag (M2) monoclonal antibody (Sigma, cat. Nr F3165) and ^g of a rat anti mouse-lgG conjugated to FITC (ebioscience, cat. Nr 11-4011) and incubated for 15min in the dark. Once cells were surface attached, excess of staining solution was carefully removed. Images of infected cells and non-infected cells were taken with the Eclipse TE2000 (Nikon) inverted microscope. Images were taken using transmission microscopy, and using epifluorescence transmission microscopy using the FITC filter. All fluorescence measurements were performed using the same exposure settings. Comparing the fluorescence images of non-infected Sf9 cells with cells expressing P2AR365N-N b80, 2AR365N-N b71, P2AR365N-N b69 or non-fused P2AR365N demonstrate that the chimeric polypeptides are mainly expressed on the cell surface of the insect cells, similar to the non-fused receptor (data not shown). Example 4: Preparation of membranes from insect cells expressing the P2AR-Nanobody fusions.

Cell pellets obtained by centrifugation of fresh 50ml cultures of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant P2AR- N b fusions were resuspended in 8ml lysis buffer containing protease inhibitors ( lOmM Tris/HCI pH7.4, ImM EDTA, lC^g/ml leupeptine, 0,2mM PMSF). Cells were lysed by thoroughly crushing the resuspended pellets using a small glass grinder and a teflon pestle. Membranes were recovered by centrifugation at 26000g. Membrane pellets were resuspended in 1.5ml of storage buffer (lOmM Tris/HCI pH7.4, ImM EDTA, 10% saccharose) and stored in aliquots at 80°C. Total protein concentrations were measured with the BCA protein assay kit (Thermo Scientific Pierce, cat. Nr 23225) according to the manufacturer's instructions. The expression of GPCR-Nanobody hybrids in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells was further confirmed by analyzing the protein content of these Sf9 membranes by western blot analysis (Example 5). The pharmacological properties of these GPCR- Nanobody hybrids have been analysed by radioligand competition assays (Example 6).

Example 5: Expression of P2AR-Nanobody fusion proteins confirmed by western Blot

Membrane preparations (25μg total protein) of the different baculovirus infected Sf9 cells were loaded on a 12,5% SDS-PAGE gel. After electrophoresis, proteins were transferred to a nitrocellulose sheet and the membrane was blocked with 4% skimmed milk. Expression of the recombinant proteins was detected using the anti-flag M2 (Sigma, cat. Nr F3165) as the primary antibody and an anti-mouse alkaline phosphatase conjugate (Sigma, cat. Nr A3562) in combination with N BT and BCI P to develop the blot (Figure 3). The detection of bands with the appropriate molecular weight (approximately 57 and 43 kDa for the Nanobody-fused and non-fused 2AR, respectively) confirms expression of the fusion protein for all constructs generated.

Example 6: Analysis of the pharmacological properties of the P2AR-Nanobody fusions by comparative radioligand competition assays.

To analyse the pharmacological properties of the different P2AR365N-Nanobody fusions we performed comparative radioligand competition experiments using the natural agonist epinephrine (Sigma cat. Nr E4250), (-)-isoproterenol hydrochloride (full agonist, Sigma cat. Nr 16504), salbutamol (partial agonist, Sigma cat. Nr S8260), ICI-118,551 hydrochloride (inverse agonist, Sigma cat. Nr 1127) or alprenolol hydrochloride (neutral antagonist, Sigma cat. Nr A8676) and carvedilol (antagonist, Sigma cat. Nr C3993) as the competitor and the neutral antagonist [3H]-dihydroalprenolol as the radioligand. The pharmacological effect of the different ligands is according to Kahsai et al. (2011). Radioligand competition binding experiments were performed on Sf9 insect cell membranes expressing either 2AR365N (no Nanobody fused), 2AR365N-N b80, 2AR365N-N b71 or 2AR365N- N b69. Membranes of sf9 cells expressing the different recombinant proteins (Examples 2 & 4, 5μg total protein) were mixed with either (-)-isoproterenol, epinephrine, sal butamol, ICI 118,551 or alprenolol at concentrations ranging from 10-nM to 10"4M in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). Next, the radioligand [3H]-dihydroalprenolol was added (2 nM final concentration) to each dilution and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand by filtration over Whatman GF/C unifilters (Perkin Elmer, cat. Nr 6005174) using a 96 well FilterMate harvester (Perkin Elmer). After filtration, membranes retained on the filter plates were washed with ice-cold wash buffer (20mM Tris-HCI pH7.4), and filters were dried for 1 hour at 50°C. After adding 40 μΙ of scintillation fluid (MicroScint™-0, Perkin Elmer, cat. Nr 6013611), radioactivity (cpm) retained on the filters was measured in a Wallac MicroBeta TriLux scintillation counter. Data represent the mean ± SEM (standard error of the mean) of each experiment performed in triplicate. The IC50 values were determined by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA).

In a first series of experiments, we compared the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion with the properties of the 2AR365N-N b69 chimer (Figure 4). N b80 is a Xaperone that selectively binds to agonist bound 2AR and exhibits G protein-like behaviour, thus stabilizing the active-state conformation of the receptor in the agonist« 2AR« N b 80 complex (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). N b69 is a mock Nanobody that specifically binds to the rat muscarinic receptor M3 with no detectable affinity for 2AR. We found that the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer are profoundly different from the properties of the control Nb69-fused receptor. Compared to the N b69 chimer, 2AR fused to the Nanobody with G protein-like behaviour (N b80) exhibits increased affinities for agonists (epinephrine, isoproterenol, salbutamol) and decreased affinities for inverse agonists (ICI-118,551), exemplified by the modulated IC50s of the tested ligands on the N b80 and mock fusion (Table 3). This proves that the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer -but not the control mock 2AR365N- N b69 chimer- adopts an active-state conformation characterized by increased affinities for agonists and decreased affinities for inverse agonists. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer, compared to control 2AR365N-N b69 for the natural agonist epinephrine can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 4A by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50high of 2AR365N-N b80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 2080. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer for the synthetic agonist isoprotenerol can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50high of 2AR365N-N b80 (Figure 4B), resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 670. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer for the synthetic partial agonist sal butamol can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 4D by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50high of 2AR365N-N b80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 370.

Similarly, the decreased affinity of the 2AR365N-Nb80 chimer, compared to control 2AR365N-N b69 for the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 4E by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 0,023.

Notably, the 2AR-N b80 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the neutral antagonist alprenolol as compared to the control 2AR365N-N b69 chimer. The IC50's 2AR365N-N b80 and 2AR365N-N b69 for alprenolol (Figure 4C) are indeed very similar, consistent with the fact that neutral antagonists are nonselective ligands that bind different functional conformations. Remarkably, the 2AR-N b80 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the antagonist carvedilol as compared to the control 2AR365N-N b69 chimer. The IC50's of carvedilol detected on 2AR365N- N b80 and 2AR365N-N b69 (Figure 4F) are indeed very similar (difference less than a factor 2).

In a second series of experiments, we compared the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N- N b80 fusion with the properties of the non-fused 2AR365N receptor (Figure 5). 2AR fused to the Nanobody with G protein-like behaviour (N b80) exhibits 3 orders of magnitude higher affinities for the natural agonist epinephrine, indicating that the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer -but not the non-fused control receptor- adopts an active-state conformation characterized by increased affinities for agonists. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer, compared to control non-fused 2AR365N for the natural agonist epinephrine can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 5A by dividing the IC50 of non-fused 2AR365N by the IC50hlgh of 2AR365N-N b80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 1370 (Table 3). Remarkably, the 2AR-Nb80 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the antagonist carvedilol as compared to the control non-fused 2AR365N. The IC50's of 2AR365N-Nb80 and non-fused 2AR365N-Nb69 for carvedilol (Figure 5B and Table 3) are indeed very similar.

In a third experiment, we compared the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N-Nb71 fusion with the properties of the 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (Figure 6 and Table 3). Nb71 is another Nanobody that selectively binds the active conformation of βΙΑΚ (WO2012007594). We found that the pharmalogical properties of the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer also exhibits increased affinities for agonists (isoproterenol, salbutamol) and decreased affinities for the inverse agonist ICI-118,551, showing that the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer -but not the control 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer- adopts an active-state conformation characterized by increased affinities for agonists and decreased affinities for inverse agonists. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer, compared to control 2AR365N-Nb69 for the natural agonist epinephrine can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 6A by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-Nb69 by the IC50hlgh of 2AR365N-Nb71, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 2030. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer for the synthetic agonist isoprotenerol can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 6B by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-Nb69 by the IC50high of 2AR365N-Nb71, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 80. The increased affinity of the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer for the synthetic partial agonist salbutamol can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 6D by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-Nb69 by the IC50high of 2AR365N-Nb71, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 450.

Similarly, the decreased affinity of the 2AR365N-Nb71 chimer, compared to control 2AR365N-Nb69 for the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 6E by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-Nb69 by the IC50 of 2AR365N-Nb71, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 0,01.

Notably, the 2AR-Nb71 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the neutral antagonist alprenolol as compared to the control 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer. The IC50's 2AR365N-Nb71 and 2AR365N-Nb69 for alprenolol (Figure 6C) are indeed very similar, consistent with the fact that neutral antagonists are nonselective ligands that bind different functional conformations. Remarkably, the 2AR-Nb71 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the antagonist carvedilol as compared to the control 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer. The IC50's 2AR365N-Nb71 and 2AR365N-Nb69 for carvedilol (Figure 6F) are indeed very similar. Example 7: Conformational thermostability of the P2AR-Nanobody fusion.

One of the strategies for the stabilisation of GPCRs, namely the thermostabilisation of G PCRs is based on the systematic mutagenesis coupled with thermostability assays in the presence of (radio)ligands to screen for mutants with improved thermostability (Tate 2012). Unfortunately, receptors that are thermostabilized in the presence of an agonist show no significant increase in the affinities for their respective agonists (Serrano-Vegaet al. 2008, Shibata et al. 2009, Lebon et al. 2011), indicating that these thermostabilized receptors do not adopt the fully active conformation of the receptor.

To test if the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion, a fusion protein with all properties of the active-state 2AR receptor has an increased thermostability, we performed thermostability assays on 2AR365N-Nb80 and 2AR365N-N b69 to measure if a Nanobody with G protein-like behaviour (N b80) that stabilizes the active conformation of the receptor also increases its thermostability, leading to a genuine conformational thermostabilized receptor.

To solu bilize the receptors, we incu bated membranes (approximately lmg of total membrane protein) from Sf9 cells expressing either 2AR365N-N b80 or 2AR365N-N b69 for one hour on ice in 1% DDM (20mM Tris HCI, pH7,4, 500mM NaCI, 1% n-Dodecyl β-D-maltoside, ^g/ml leupeptine, 0,2mM PMSF). Next insoluble material was removed by centrifugation for 5min at 17000g. Next, solubilized receptors were diluted with buffer (20mM Tris HCI, pH7,4, 500mM NaCI) to a DDM concentration of 0,08% DDM and insoluble material was removed again by centrifugation (20000g for 20 min at 4°C). 20μΙ aliquots of the solubilized receptor were diluted to 90μΙ with assay buffer (20mM Tris HCI, pH7,4, 500mM NaCI, 1% n-Dodecyl β-D-maltoside) and left on ice for 30min.

Thermostability was assessed by incubating diluted aliquots in the a bsence of any ligand at a specified temperature for 30 min. After 30 minutes, excess radioligand (5nM final concentration)

was added to each sample and samples were left on ice for 45min.

To quantify the remaining fraction of functional receptor, receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand by gelfiltration on a 2ml sephadex G50 column equilibrated with ice cold assay buffer. The receptor bound radioligand was collected in a volume of 1ml and diluted in 6ml of scintillation fluid (Optiphase Hisafe2, PerkinElmer, cat. Nr 1200-436) to count the radioactivity (cpm) in a liquid scintillation analyser Tri-carb2810TR (Perkin Elmer). The nonspecific binding was estimated by measuring the radioactivity remaining in the protein fraction in the presence of 1 μΜ of cold alprenolol.

Data represent the mean ± SEM (experiments performed in triplicate) of the radioligand that specifically binds to the receptor at a given temperature, relative to the receptor bound ligand at 0°C. These experiments indicate that the solubilized 2AR365N-N b80 chimer (Tm =33°C) has a higher thermostability than 2AR365N-N b69 (Tm = 29°C) in 0,08% DDM (Figure 7). Because N b80 stabilizes the active conformation of 2AR we conclude that the P2AR365N-N b80 chimer represents a conformational thermostabilized receptor.

Example 8: Comparison of the pharmacological properties of the P2AR-Nanobody fusion to the non- fused P2AR in complex with exogenously added Nanobody. To compare the efficiency of fused versus non-fused N b80 to stabilize the active state of 2AR, the pharmacological properties of the P2AR365N-N b80 fusion was compared to the non-fused P2AR365N in complex with exogenously added N b80. We performed similar comparative radioligand competition experiments as described in Example 6. The natural agonist epinephrine (Sigma cat. Nr E4250) was used as the competitor and [3H]-dihydroalprenolol as the radioligand. The P2AR365N-N b69 fusion, and P2AR365N in complex with exogenously added N b69 were assayed in parallel as controls.

Radioligand competition binding experiments were performed on Sf9 insect cell membranes ^g total protein) expressing either P2AR365N (no Nanobody fused), P2AR365N-N b80 or P2AR365N-N b69. Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the P2AR365N-Nb80 fusion or the P2AR365N-N b69 fusion were mixed with different concentrations of epinephrine ranging from 10"10M to 10"4M in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). In parallel, different concentrations of purified N b80 or N b69, ranging from 50pM to 500nM, were added to membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the non-fused P2AR365N before mixing them with the different concentrations of epinephrine ranging from 10"10 M to 10"4 M in binding buffer. Next, the radioligand [3H]- dihydroalprenolol was added (2 nM final concentration) to each condition and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). Ligand bound membranes were harvested and radioactivity was measured as described in Example 6. Data represent the mean ± SEM of each data point performed in triplicate.

Data represent the mean ± SEM. of each experiment performed in triplicate. The IC50 values were determined by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA). As can be observed in Figure 8, the affinity of non-fused P2AR365N for the natural agonist epinephrine is depending on the concentration of N b80, with increasing apparent affinity concomitant with increasing concentrations of exogenously added N b80. The epinephrine potency shift of P2AR365N in presence of 500nM N b80 is only 87-fold, while 534-fold for the P2AR365N-N b80 fusion (calculated by dividing the IC50 of the mock fusion by the respective IC50s of the non-fused P2AR365N in presence of exogenously added N b80 and P2AR365N-N b80). Only in the presence of 5μΜ exogenous N b80, the IC50 obtained with the non-fused P2AR365N is identical to the one obtained with the P2AR365N-N b80 fusion. 5 μΜ of free N b80 has to be added to the non-fused receptor to measure a comparable affinity of non-fused 2AR365N and the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion for the natural agonist epinephrine. The effective intramolecular concentration of N b80 in the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion thus appears to be higher than 500nM.

The amount of B2AR in the Sf9 membranes was determined to be approximately 20 pmol/mg total membrane protein for the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion. Five μg of the 2AR365N-N b80 Sf9 membranes thus contain approximately O.lpmol of 2AR. Five μΜ of exogenously added N b80 (in 250μΙ of reaction volume) corresponds to approximately 1.25 nmol of N b80. A 12500 fold molar excess of exogenously added N b80 over 2AR is required to constrain the receptor in its epinephrine bound active state with the same efficiency as compared to the 2AR-N b80 fusion under the conditions tested and assuming equal expression of 2AR whether or not fused to Nb80.

The results obtained via the comparative radioligand competition assay on the active state constrained vs the non-constrained i2AR (Examples 6 and 8) allow to discriminate (partial) agonists (IC50 ratios > 10) from antagonists and inverse agonists (IC50 ratios < 1) (Table 3). The ability to discriminate and predict the mode of action of tested compounds at ηΜ-μΜ concentrations (agonist, partial agonist, antagonist, inverse agonist) without the need for a cellular receptor signalling assay is an asset for compound screening.

Example 9: Generation of M2R-Nanobody fusion protein constructs

The GPCR-Nanobody fusion described in this example is a chimeric polypeptide that contains two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (M2R), the linker GGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGS (SEQ ID NO: 49) and a Nanobody, all of which were fused in this order from the amino to the carboxy terminus. Genes encoding these proteins were fused as described below (Figure 9) and cloned in the pFastBacl vector.

The GPCR part, synthetically synthesized, encodes the cleavable hemagglutinin (HA) protein signal peptide (SP) derived from influenza virus (MKTNALSYI FCLVFA; SEQ I D NO: 52) followed by the Flag epitope (DYKDDDD; SEQ I D NO: 50) followed by a TEV cleavage site (EN LYFQG; SEQ ID NO: 51) followed by the coding sequence of human M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptor encompassing Metl to Arg466 with a deletion of the intracellular loop 3: replacing the amino acids Pro233 till Lys374 with Thr and Arg. Point mutations (N2D, N3D, N6D, N9D) were introduced to the construct to disrupt glycosylation sites (M2Ai3R; SEQ I D NO: 5). This muscarinic receptor engineering was performed to increase the receptor's cellular expression levels in Sf9cells. Nb9-1 (SEQ ID NO: 16) is a Nanobody that selectively binds to agonist bound M2Ai3R and exhibits G protein-like behaviour (also referred to as a G protein mimetic), thus stabilizing the active-state conformation of the receptor in the agonist« M2Ai3R« Nb9-l complex. The M2Ai3R-Nb9-l fusion was was optimized for insect cell expression and synthesized by Geneart (pMK-RQM2Ai3-Nb9-l; Lab reference CA7908; Life technologies). The receptor-Nanobody fusion was cloned as a Bglll-Xbal fragment in the BamHI-Xbal opened pFastBacl vector resulting in pFastBacl-M2Ai3R-Nb9-l (Lab reference CA7911). A control construct encoding only the M2Ai3R open reading frame without linker and a Nanobody (pFastBacl-M2Ai3R; Lab reference CA7914) was constructed by cloning the Bglll-Xbal fragment from pMK-RQM2Ai3R (synthesized by Geneart, Lab reference 7909) in the pFastBacl vector. All constructs were transformed in E. coli ToplO cells. The amino acid sequences encoded by the M2Ai3R control construct and the M2Ai3R-Nb fusion construct are shown in Figure 9B and C (SEQ ID NO: 5 and 6). The M2Ai3R- Nb9-8 fusion construct has been made in a similar way. Nb9-8 (SEQ ID NO: 17) is another example of a M2R specific Nanobody with G protein-like behavior (Kruse, 2013).

Example 10: Expression of M2Ai3R-Nanobody fusion and of M2Ai3R in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells To produce bacmids encoding the M2Ai3R-Nanobody fusion, one ng of pFastBacl-M2Ai3R-Nb9-l was transformed into DHlOBac™ cells using the Bac-to-Bac® Baculovirus Expression system according to the manufacturer's instructions and plated overnight as described in Example 2. White colonies were picked, bacmids were purified and the sequences of the open reading frames reconfirmed. Recombinant baculovirus was produced in Sf9 cells by transfecting the M2Ai3R-Nanobody9-l bacmid and the M2Ai3R bacmid.

PI and P2 baculovirus stocks were prepared as described in Example 2. Recombinant expression of M2Ai3R or the M2Ai3R-Nb9-l fusion was accomplished through the infection of freshly grown Sf9 cells at a density of 4x10s /ml with lOOfold diluted P2 baculovirus stocks. Infected cells were cultured for 48h to 60h at 27°C (130rpm) before harvesting. The expression of GPCR-Nanobody hybrids was confirmed by fluorescence microscopy on live cells. Cells expressing the recombinant protein were washed twice with ice cold PBS (pH 7.4, 1.5mM EDTA), pelleted and stored at -80°C.

Example 11: Preparation of membranes from insect cells expressing the M2Ai3R or M2Ai3R-Nb fusion.

Cell pellets obtained by centrifugation of fresh 50ml cultures of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant M2Ai3R or M2Ai3R-Nb fusion were processed into membrane extracts and stored exactly as described in Example 4. Total protein concentrations were measured with the BCA protein assay kit according to the manufacturer's instructions. The pharmacological properties of these GPCR-Nanobody hybrids were analysed by radioligand competition assays (Example 12).

Example 12: Analysis of the pharmacological properties of the M2Ai3R-Nanobody fusion by comparative radioligand competition assays. To analyse the pharmacological properties of the M2Ai3R-Nanobody fusion we performed comparative radioligand competition experiments using carbachol (full agonist, Sigma cat. Nr C4382) and oxotremorine M (agonist, Sigma cat. Nr O100) as the competitor and [3H]-N methyl scopolamine (Perkin Elmer cat. Nr NET636001MC) as the radioligand.

Radioligand competition binding experiments were performed on Sf9 insect cell membranes expressing either M2Ai3R (no Nanobody fused) or M2Ai3R-Nb9-l. Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the different recombinant proteins (Examples 10 & 11, 10μg total protein) were mixed with either carbachol or oxotremorine M at concentrations ranging from 10"9M to 10"2M in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). Next, the radioligand [3H]-N methyl scopolamine was added (0,5 nM final concentration) to each dilution and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand by filtration over Whatman GF/C unifilters (Perkin Elmer, cat nr 6005174 ) using a 96 well FilterMate harvester (Perkin Elmer). After filtration, membranes retained on the filter plates were washed with ice-cold wash buffer (20mM Tris- HCI pH7.4), and filters were dried for 1 hour at 50°C. After adding 35 μΙ of scintillation fluid (MicroScint™-0, Perkin Elmer, cat. Nr 6013611), radioactivity (cpm) retained on the filters was measured in a Wallac MicroBeta TriLux scintillation counter.

We compared the pharmacological properties of the M2Ai3R-Nb9-l fusion with the properties of M2Ai3R (Figure 10). We found that the pharmacological properties of the M2Ai3R-Nb9-l chimer is different from the properties of the control M2Ai3R, exemplified by the IC50s and IC50 ratio of the tested ligands on the M2Ai3R-Nb9-l fusion and M2Ai3R (Table 4). The increased affinity of the M2Ai3R-Nb9-l chimer, compared to control non-fused M2Ai3R for the synthetic agonist carbachol is calculated as the ratio IC50M2Ai3R / IC50hlgh M2Ai3R-Nb9-i (Figure 10A), resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 67. The ratio obtained for the synthetic agonist oxotremorine M is 316, showing that the M2Ai3R- Nb9-1 chimer adopts an active-state conformation (Figure 10B). Similarly, the M2Ai3R-Nb9-8 fusion has a higher affinity for the synthetic agonist carbachol as compared to non-fused M2Ai3R (data not shown). Example 13: Generation of piAR-Nanobody fusion protein constructs

The GPCR-Nanobody fusion described in this example is a chimeric polypeptide that contains two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the βΐ adrenergic receptor (piAR), the linker GGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGS (SEQ ID NO: 60) and a Nanobody, all of which were fused in this order from the amino to the carboxy terminus. Genes encoding these proteins (Figure F11A) were fused as described below.

A synthetic &1AR gene was synthesized by Geneart (pMK-RQ hbetalAR; Lab reference CA CA7910). It encodes the cleavable hemagglutinin (HA) protein signal peptide (SP) derived from influenza virus (MKTNALSYIFCLVFA; SEQ ID NO: 52) followed by the Flag epitope (DYKDDDDA; SEQ ID NO: 53) followed by a TEV cleavage site (ENLYFQG; SEQ ID NO: 51) followed by the coding sequence of human βΐ adrenergic receptor encompassing Pro50 to Arg401 (hpiAR, Uniprot P08588). The filAR coding sequence contains a deletion of the intracellular loop 3 (Ser260 till Gly304) and two point mutations C392S, C393S to improve the receptor's cellular expression levels in Sf9 cells. Alignments of the amino acid sequences of filAR and 2AR indicate that the amino acid side-chains that constitute the Nb80 epitope in the 2AR«Gs complex (Rasmussen et al. 2011a) are identical amongst filAR and 2AR except R318 (filAR numbering; Uniprot P08588) that is replaced by lysine in 2AR. Based on this observation, one extra point mutation R318K was introduced to create the full Nb80 epitope in the 1AR.

Nanobody gene segments encoding the respective Nanobodies were cloned from the plasmids described in Example 1. Nb80 (SEQ ID NO: 13) is a &2AR Nanobody that stabilizes the active state of the 2AR bound to full agonists such as BI-167107 (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). Nb69 (SEQ ID NO: 15) is specific for the Muscarinic3 receptor and has no detectable affinity for i2AR.

The filAR receptor was cloned as a Bglll-BamHI fragment from pMK-RQ hbetalAR (Lab reference CA7910) in the BamHI opened pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb80 (CA6836) vector to replace the &2AR receptor resulting in pFastBac-hpiAR-Nb80 (Lab reference CA7923). A control construct pFastBac-hpiAR-Nb69 (Lab reference CA7924) encoding the filAR open reading frame linked to Nb69 was constructed by cloning the same Bglll-BamHI fragment from pMK-RQ hbetalAR in the pFastBac 2AR365N-Nb69 (CA6833) to replace the i2AR receptor. All constructs were transformed in E. coli ToplO cells. The amino acid sequences encoded the hbetalAR-Nb fusion constructs are shown in Figure 11B-C (SEQ ID NO: 7 and 8). Example 14: Expression of piAR-Nanobody fusions in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells.

To produce bacmids encoding one of the piAR-Nanobody fusions, one ng of pFastBac-hpiAR-Nb80 or pFastBac-piAR-Nb69 was transformed into DHlOBac™ cells using the Bac-to-Bac® Baculovirus Expression system according to the manufacturer's instructions and plated overnight as described in Example 2. White colonies were picked, bacmids were purified and the sequences of the open reading frames reconfirmed. Recombinant baculovirus was produced in Sf9 cells by transfecting the piAR-Nb80 bacmid and the piAR-Nb69 bacmid.

PI and P2 baculovirus stocks were prepared as described in Example 2. Recombinant expression of the P1AR-Nb80 or the piAR-Nb69 fusion was accomplished through the infection of freshly grown Sf9 cells at a density of 4xl06/ml with lOOfold diluted P2 baculovirus stocks. Infected cells were cultured for 48h to 60h at 27°C (130rpm) before harvesting. Cells expressing the recombinant protein were washed twice with ice cold PBS (pH 7.4, 1.5mM EDTA), pelleted and stored at -80°C.

Example 15: Preparation of membranes from insect cells expressing the hpiAR-Nb80 or hpiAR-Nb69 fusion. Cell pellets obtained by centrifugation of fresh 50ml cultures of Sf9 cells expressing recombinant hpiAR-Nb80 or hpiAR-Nb69 fusion were processed into membrane extracts and stored exactly as described in Example 4. Total protein concentrations were measured with the BCA protein assay kit according to the manufacturer's instructions. The pharmacological properties of these GPCR-Nanobody hybrids were analysed by radioligand competition assays (Example 16). Example 16: Analysis of the pharmacological properties of the hpiAR-Nanobody fusion by comparative radioligand competition assays.

To analyse the pharmacological properties of the different hpiAR-Nanobody fusions, we performed comparative radioligand competition experiments using the natural agonist epinephrine, then inverse agonist ICI-118,551 hydrochloride or the neutral antagonist alprenolol hydrochloride as the competitor and the neutral antagonist [3H]-dihydroalprenolol as the radioligand. The pharmacological effect of the different ligands is according to Kahsai et al. (2011).

Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the different recombinant proteins (Examples 14 & 15, 5μg total protein) were mixed with either epinephrine, ICI118,551 or alprenolol at concentrations ranging from 10-nM to 10"4M in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). Next, the radioligand [3H]-dihydroalprenolol was added (2 nM final concentration) to each dilution and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand as described in Example 6. Data represent the mean ± SEM (standard error of the mean) of each experiment performed in triplicate. The IC50 values were determined by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA).

In this series of experiments, we compared the pharmacological properties of the hpiAR-Nb80 fusion with the properties of the hpiAR-Nb69 fusion (Figure 12A). We found that the pharmacological properties of the hpiAR-Nb80 chimer are profoundly different from the properties of the control Nb69-fused receptor. Compared to the Nb69 chimer, hpiAR fused to the Nanobody with G protein-like behaviour (Nb80) exhibits increased affinity for the agonist epinephrine and a decreased affinity for the inverse agonist (ICI-118,551), exemplified by the modulated IC50s of the tested ligands on the h 1AR-Nb80 fusion and hpiAR-Nb69 fusion (Table 5). This proves that the hpiAR-Nb80 chimer - but not the control mock 2AR365N-Nb69 chimer - adopts an active-state conformation characterized by increased affinities for agonists and decreased affinities for inverse agonists. The increased affinity of the hpiAR-Nb80 chimer, compared to control hpiAR-Nb69 for the natural agonist epinephrine can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 12A by dividing the IC50 of hpiAR-Nb69 by the IC50high of hpiAR-Nb80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 68. The decreased affinity of the hpiAR-Nb80 chimer, compared to control hpiAR-Nb69 for the inverse agonist ICI-118,551 can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 12B by dividing the IC50 of h 1AR-Nb69 by the IC50high of hpiAR-Nb80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 0,077.

Notably, the hpiAR-Nb80 fusion has little effect on the affinity for the neutral antagonist alprenolol as compared to the control hpiAR-Nb69 chimer. The IC50's 2AR365N-Nb80 and 2AR365N-Nb69 for alprenolol (Figure 12C) are indeed very similar, consistent with the fact that neutral antagonists are non-selective ligands that bind different functional conformations.

Example 17: Generation of P2AR-Nb60 fusion construct.

The GPCR-Nanobody fusions described in this Example is a chimeric polypeptides that contain two different proteins connected with a peptide linker: the GPCR βΙΑΚ, the linker GGGGSGGGS (SEQ ID NO: 51) and Nb60, all of which were fused in this order from the amino to the carboxy terminus. The genes encoding this protein were fused as described in Example 1 with minor adjustments. The GPCR part was amplified from DNA encoding the cleavable hemagglutinin (HA) protein signal peptide (SP) derived from influenza virus (MKTNALSYIFCLVFA; SEQ I D NO: 52) followed by the Flag epitope (DYKDDDDA; SEQ I D NO: 53) followed by a TEV cleavage site (EN LYFQGF; SEQ I D NO: 54) followed by the coding sequence of human β2 adrenergic receptor encompassing Gly2 to Gly365 (SEQ I D NO: 55). A point mutation of N 187E was also introduced to the construct to disrupt this unwanted glycosylation site ( 2AR365N; Rasmussen et al., 2011b). The β2 adrenergic receptor engineering to 2AR365N was performed to increase the receptor's cellular expression levels in Sf9 cells.

The Nanobody gene segment was amplified from a phagemids encoding the N b60. N b60 (SEQ I D NO: 18) is a 2AR-specific Nanobody that is described to stabilize an inactive 2AR conformation and significantly inhibit G-protein activation and β-arrestin recruitment (Staus et al. 2013).

The GPCR and the Nanobody were genetically fused in frame by an overlap extension PCR. Therefore 2ng of plasmid containing the GPCR cDNA was used as the template in a 50μΙ PCR reaction (Phusion polymerase, (Biolabs, cat. Nr M0530S) to amplify the βΙΑΚ encoding DNA (CA6817) using primer EP232 (5'-GCAGATCTCGGTCCGAAG-3'; SEQ I D NO: 61) and primer EP207 (5'- CCTCCGCCGGATCCGCCACCTCCTCCACTCTGCTCCCCTGTG-3'; SEQ I D NO: 57). Primer EP232 anneals 5' of the fcoRI restriction site at the 5' end of the coding sequence. Primer EP207 incorporates part of the GGGGSGGGS (SEQ I D NO: 51) linker at the C-terminus of the receptor. The amplification conditions for this reaction were 30sec 98°C, 25 cycles of lOsec 98°C, 30sec 64,5°C, 30sec 72°C followed by 5min at 72°C to amplify the GPCR encoding part of the open reading frame of the fusion. N b60 has an identical N-terminal and C-terminal sequence as the Nanobodies in Example 1. This Nanobody DNA was amplified as described in Example 1 using 2ng of template (CA2760) and Phusion polymerase in a 50μΙ reaction. The following amplification conditions were used 30min 98°C, 25 cycles of lOsec 98°C and lOsec 72°C followed by 5 min at 72°C to amplify the Nanobody encoding part of the hybrids. PCR fragments encoding the GPCR or a Nanobody were purified using the PCR purification kit (Promega) and used as templates in a new 50μΙ PCR reaction: 6ng of the EP232- 2AR-EP207 (EP232 and EP207 refers to the primers that have been used for PCR amplification) amplified PCR fragment was mixed with approximately 2ng of amplified EP206-Nanobody-EP202 fragment and fused with Phusion polymerase by overlap extension as follows. After melting for 30sec at 98°C and 5 cycles of lOsec at 98°C, 30sec at 72°C , the fused 2AR-Nanobody open reading frames were amplified using primers EP232 and EP202 in 25 cycles (lOsec 98°C, 30sec 67°C, 40sec 72°C) followed by 5min at 72°C. The PCR fragment containing the 2AR-N b60 open reading frame was purified, cloned as an EcoR\-Xba\ fragment in pFastBacl and transformed in E. coli ToplO. Plasmid DNA was prepared from a single colony and the sequence of the open reading frame was confirmed by sequencing. Constructs were designated pFastBac P2AR365N-Nb60 (Lab reference CA8235). The amino acid sequences encoded by the different P2AR365N-Nb fusion constructs are given in Figure 2E (SEQ ID NO: 4). Example 18: Expression of P2AR-Nb60 in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells and preparation of membranes from insect cells expressing the P2AR-Nb60 fusion

To express the P2AR365N-Nb60 fusion in Sf9 cells, a bacmid encoding P2AR-Nb60 fusion was made and Sf9 cells were infected as described in Example 2. Membranes from insect cells expressing the P2AR- Nb60 fusion were prepared as described in Example 4. The pharmacological properties of these GPCR- Nanobody hybrids have been analysed by radioligand competition assays (Example 19).

Example 19: Analysis of the pharmacological properties of the P2AR-Nb60 fusion by comparative radioligand competition assays.

To analyse the pharmacological properties of the P2AR365N-Nb60 fusion we performed comparative radioligand competition experiments using the natural agonist epinephrine, (-)-isoproterenol hydrochloride (full agonist), and ICI-118,551 hydrochloride (inverse agonist) as the competitor and the neutral antagonist [3H]-dihydroalprenolol as the radioligand. The pharmacological effect of the different ligands is according to Kahsai et al. (2011).

Radioligand competition binding experiments were performed on Sf9 insect cell membranes expressing either P2AR365N-Nb80, P2AR365N-Nb60 or P2AR365N-Nb69. Membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the different recombinant proteins (Examples 2 & 4, 5μg total protein) were mixed with either, epinephrine, (-)-isoproterenol or ICI118,551 concentrations ranging from 10-nM to 10"2M in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). Next, the radioligand [3H]- dihydroalprenolol was added (2 nM final concentration) to each dilution and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand as described in Example 6. Data represent the mean ± SEM (standard error of the mean) of each experiment performed in triplicate. The IC50 values were determined by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA).

In these experiments, we compared the pharmacological properties of the P2AR365N-Nb60 fusion with the properties of the P2AR365N-Nb80 and the P2AR365N-Nb69 chimer (Figure 13A). Nb60 is a Nanobody that is claimed to stabilize an inactive 2AR conformation (Staus et al. 2013), N b80 is a Nanobody that selectively binds to agonist bound 2AR and exhibits G protein-like behaviour, thus stabilizing the active-state conformation of the receptor in the agonist« 2AR« N b 80 complex (Rasmussen et al. 2011b). N b69 is a mock Nanobody that specifically binds to the rat muscarinic receptor M3 with no detectable affinity for 2AR. We found that the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N-N b60 chimer are profoundly different from the properties of the control N b69-fused receptor. Compared to the N b69 chimer, i2AR fused to N b60 exhibits decreased affinities for agonists (epinephrine, isoproterenol) and has little effect on the affinity for the inverse agonist ICI-118,551, exemplified by the modulated IC50s of the tested ligands on the N b60 and N b69 fusion (Table 6). This proves that the 2AR365N-N b60 chimer -but not the control mock 2AR365N-N b69 chimer - adopts a conformation that differs from the agonist-bound active state conformation and differs from the basal conformation of the receptor. This conformation is characterized by decreased affinities for agonists. Our results clearly show that different Nanobodies are able to stabilize different conformational states of a receptor. The decreased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b60 chimer (versus the increased affinity of the 2AR365N- N b80 chimer), compared to control 2AR365N-Nb69 for the natural agonist epinephrine can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 13A by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b60, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 0,0046 (versus =855 for N b80 fusion compared to N b69 fusion). The decreased affinity of the 2AR365N-N b60 chimer for the synthetic agonist isoprotenerol can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b60 (Figure 13B), resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 0,012 (versus =155 for N b80 fusion compared to Nb69 fusion).

Example 20: Generation of mu-opioid receptor-Nanobody fusion constructs. The Mori AA sequence is highly conserved between different mammalian species. More specifically, the cross species sequence homology for the predicted intracellular topological domains (ICLs + C- terminus) between mouse, bovine, pig and human Mori is > 90%. Knowing that N b33 interacts with intracellular epitopes of mouse Mori, we anticipated that N b33 also stabilizes the active conformation of hMorl, as there is only one conserved substitution in ICL2 (indicated by ':' in Figure 14) and one semi-conserved substitution in the C-terminus (indicated by '.' in Figure 14).

The GPCR-Nanobody fusions described in this example encode chimeric polypeptides similar to those described in Example 1. Here we describe the human mu-opioid receptor (hMorl, NCBI reference sequence NM_000914.1) genetically fused to Nanobody Nb33 (Lab reference XA8633) and separated by a 34 AA Gly-Ser linker (GGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGGSGGGS; SEQ ID NO: 62). An open reading frame encoding hMorl was optimized for insect cell expression and was custom synthesized as an fco I-H/'/idlll fragment at GeneArt (Life Technologies). A cartoon of the synthetic hybrid gene is represented in Figure 15. Compared to the 2AR fusions depicted in Figure 2A, for the opioid receptor fusions i) the TEV cleavage site is omitted and ii) 2AR365N is replaced by the human Mori nt sequence encoding for AA residues 1-360 with an extra deletion of AA residues 2-5 (DSSA) and immediately followed by a 3C cleavage site insertion (LEVLFQGP) before the 34GS linker. Nb33 (Lab reference XA8633; SEQ ID NO: 19) exhibitsGi/0 protein-like behavior (also referred to as Gi/0 protein mimetic), and selectively stabilizes the active state conformation of Mori in the agonist* Morl« Nb33 complex. Similar to G,, adding excess amounts of Nb33 increases the affinity of mouseMorl for agonist Dmtl-Dalda at least 10-fold. In the fusion construct, the coding sequence of Nb33 was engineered to introduce a unique Pst\ restriction site in F 1. The synthetic gene encoding hMORl-34GS-Nb33 was cloned as an fcoRI-H/'/ic/lll fragment in pFastBacl and transformed to E. coli TGI, resulting in pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-Nb33 (Lab reference XA8901). The encoding AA sequence of the fusion is depicted in Figure 15A. In parallel, another fusion of hMORl with an irrelevant Nanobody was generated as the control construct expressing the prominent conformation of Mori. Therefore, the Nb33 encoding sequence in pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-Nb33 was exchanged by a gene segment coding for Nanobody NblO (Lab reference CA4910). NblO (SEQ ID NO: 20) is a well characterized Nanobody specific for extracellular epitopes of a chemokine GPCR and has no detectable affinity for Mori. To prepare the NblO coding gene segment for the fusion, NblO was reamplified by PCR using primers A6E (5'-GATGTGCAGCTGCAGGAGTCTGGRGGAGG-3'; SEQ ID 63) introducing a Pst\ site in FR1 (changing V into Q) of the Nanobody and GIN (5'-CCACAGACAGCCCTCATAG-3'; SEQ ID 64), the latter oligo hybridizing to gene III. As template, 5ng of a DNA prep of the phagemid pXAPlOO expressing the NblO gene III fusion was used. The amplification conditions for this reaction were 3min 94°C and 25 cycles of 30sec 94°C, 30sec 55°C, 45sec 72°C followed by 10 min at 72°C. After purification, the amplicon was double digested with Pst\ (introduced via oligo A6E) and SsiEII (a naturally occurring unique site in FR4), purified and ligated into the 6.2 kbp gel purified Pst\-BstE\\ fragment derived of pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-Nb33, resulting in pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-NblO. The encoding AA sequence of the fusion hMORl-34GS-NblO (SEQ ID NO: 20) is depicted in Figure 15C. Following cloning, plasmid DNA of both fusion constructs was prepared from single colonies and the sequence of the hybrid gene was confirmed by sequencing. Example 21: Expression of mu opioid receptor-Nanobody fusions in baculovirus-infected Sf9 cells.

To produce bacmids encoding Morl-Nanobody fusions, five ng of pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-Nb33 or pFastBacl::hMORl-34GS-NblO was transformed into the DHlOBac™ cells. Recombinant baculovirus was produced by transfecting the Morl-Nanobody bacmids in Sf9 cells. Each bacmid was used for Cellfectin II mediated Sf9 transfection as described in Example 2, except that the PI recombinant baculovirus was harvested 72h after the transfection for the NblO fusion and 48h for the Nb33 fusion. PI virus stocks were stored at -80°C as aliquots of snap frozen culture supernatant adding 5% (final concentration) fetal calf serum (FCS). A P2 recombinant baculovirus stock was made by diluting PI 50 to 1000 fold in a fresh Sf9 culture at a density of lxlO6 cells/ml and culturing at 27°C and 130rpm. P2 virus stocks were harvested by centrifugation 48 and 72h after infection and stored as described above at -80°C until further use. The cell pellets were washed twice with ice cold PBS (Life Technologies, cat nr 10010-023), supplemented with 1.5mM EDTA), stored at -80°C to prepare membranes. Recombinant expression of the different Morl-Nb fusions was accomplished through the infection of freshly grown Sf9 cells at a density of 2e6 cells/ml with 50, 200 and 1000 fold diluted P2 baculovirus stocks. As a negative control expression, Sf9 cells were infected in parallel with P2 of Flag tagged non- related M2R. Infected cells were cultured for 48h at 27°C (130rpm) before harvesting. The cell pellets were washed twice with ice cold PBS (pH 7.4, 1.5mM EDTA) and stored at -80°C until membranes were prepared. Overexpression of GPCR-Nanobody chimers was confirmed via flow cytometry (data not shown). Example 22: Analysis of the pharmacological properties of the hMORl-Nb fusion by comparative radioligand competition assays.

Overexpression of hMORl-34GS-Nb33 or hMORl-34GS-NblO in Sf9 cells was assessed via a radioligand assay on membranes (P2) to verify native Mori folding and stabilization of the active conformer by Nb33. To prepare membranes, aliquots of 1E7 hMorl Sf9 cells were resuspended in 1ml of ice cold lysis buffer containing protease inhibitors (Example 4). The cell suspension was homogenized on ice applying 6 10-sec pulses with a small volume Ultraturrax cell mixer (IKA). The cell homogenate was centrifuged for 35 min at 15000 x g in a pre-cooled centrifuge. The supernatant was discarded and the membrane pellet was resuspended in 75mM Tris HCI pH 7.4, ImM EDTA, 5mM MgCI2, 10% sucrose and stored at -80°C until further use. The total protein content of the membrane prep was determined using the BCA protein assay kit according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The overexpression of recombinant Mori as a Nanobody fusion (hMORl-34GS-Nb33 and hMORl- 34GS-NblO membranes; P2, 72h incubation) was confirmed in a radioligand assay by measuring total (TB) and non-specific (NS) binding of [3H]-Diprenorphine antagonist radioligand (Perkin Elmer, cat nr NET1121).

The pharmacological properties of recombinant Mori is assessed in a radioligand competition assay (Manglik et al, 2012) on hMO l-34GS-Nb33 or hMORl-34GS-NblO membranes (P2, 72h expression). Fifteen μg of hMorl-34GS-Nb33 or hMorl-34GS-NblO Sf9 membranes in TBB (75mM Tris-HCI pH 7.4, ImM EDTA, 5mM MgCI2, lOOmM NaCI) containing 1% BSA as binding buffer are transferred to a 96 well plate. Subsequently, a serial dilution of cold agonist competitor (Dmtl-Dalda or KGOPOl) or antagonist (naloxone) is added. After adding one nM [3H]-diprenorphine (final concentration), the reaction mix (total volume of 125μΙ) is incubated for lhr at room temperature. Membrane bound [3H]- diprenorphine is separated from unbound radioligand on 96 well FilterMate harvester by passing over a Whatman GF/C filter presoaked in TBB with 1% BSA and washed in ice cold TBB. Filters were dried for 1 hour at 50°C. After adding 35 μΙ of scintillation fluid (MicroScint™-0), radioactivity (cpm) retained on the filters was measured in a Wallac MicroBeta TriLux scintillation counter. The percentage of residual radioligand binding is calculated and the curves of a representative experiment are represented in Figure 16. Each value in the graph represents the average of 3 data points. The IC50 values were determined by nonlinear regression analysis, with the one site - fit log IC50 equation using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA). The IC50s obtained for all ligands tested are indicated in Table x. The IC50 of agonist Dmt-DALDA on hMorl-34GS-Nb33 and hMorl-34GS-NblO Sf9 membranes are 655 and 18, respectively. For each agonist ligand tested (Dmtl-Dalda or KGOPOl), the highest affinities (lowest IC50s) are demonstrated on the hMorl-34GS-Nb33 membranes compared to those obtained on hMorl-34GS-NblO membranes. For each agonist, an IC50 ratio > 20 (Table 7) indicate their preference for the active state constrained Mori receptor. For the antagonist naloxone, the IC50s do not significantly differ whether determined on hMorl-34GS-Nb33 or on hMorl-34GS-NblO membranes. This data supports that the Nb33 fusion expresses Mori as the active conformer and has a higher affinity for agonists than for the antagonist naloxone.

Example 23: Fragment library screening using a comparative radioligand displacement assay on the P2AR-Nb fusions.

Example 6 illustrates that the pharmacological properties of the 2AR365N-Nb80 fusion is fundamentally different compared to the 2AR365N-Nb69 fusion: the Nb80 fusion preferentially binds natural and synthetic agonists, whereas it shows lower affinity for inverse agonists. Examples 12, 16, 19 further illustrate the modified pharmacological properties of particular GPCR-Nb fusions. Building on this knowledge, we tested if these pharmacological differences can be exploited for drug discovery. As an example, we screened a fragment library to identify fragments that bind with different affinities to 2AR365N-N b80 versus 2AR365N-N b69.

To identify fragments that bind with different affinities to 2AR365N-N b80 versus 2AR365N-N b69, we screened 1000 fragments of the Maybridge R03 fragment library containing fragments with a molecular weight in the range of 80 to 300 Da, for conformation selective fragments. All fragments were dissolved in 100% DMSO at a concentration of 200mM. The 1000 different Maybridge fragments were first diluted to 20mM in 100% DMSO, next they were diluted 40 times in binding buffer (75 mM Tris pH7.5, 12.5 mM MgCI2, 1 mM EDTA, 0.05% BSA). In a comparative radioligand competition binding experiment, membranes of Sf9 cells ^g total protein in ΙΟΟμΙ binding buffer) expressing the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion were mixed with ΙΟΟμΙ of each of the 1000 diluted fragments in 12 96-well plates. In parallel, membranes of Sf9 cells ^g total protein in ΙΟΟμΙ binding buffer) expressing the 2AR365N-N b69 fusion were mixed with ΙΟΟμΙ of each of the same 1000 diluted fragments in separate series of 96-well plates. Next, radioligand [3H]-dihydroalprenolol was added (50μΙ, 2 nM final concentration) to each sample (2000 samples in total) and all were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform (total reaction volume per assay point was 250μΙ). The final screening concentration of each fragment was 200μΜ. Each 96-well plate also included membranes incubated with epinephrine (1E-7M) and alprenolol (1E-6M, 1E-8M) as controls. Membranes were harvested and remaining [3H]-dihydroalprenolol radioactivity was measured as described in Example 6. Reasoning that most fragments would not displace the radioligand, we calculated for each 96-well plate the average number of counts per well (excluding the controls) and used this average value to normalize all data points on that plate (expressed in %). These normalized data were used to compare the binding of each fragment for 2AR365N-N b80 versus 2AR365N-N b69 by dividing the normalized value obtained on 2AR365N-N b69 by the normalized value obtained on 2AR365N-N b80. Ratios higher than 1 indicate that a fragment is selective (has a higher affinity) for 2AR365N-N b80. Ratios lower than 1 indicate that a fragment is selective for 2AR365N-N b69.

To measure the reproducibility of this assay, the 44 fragments most selective for 2AR365N-N b80, the 44 fragments most selective for 2AR365N-N b69 and the 44 fragments that displace the radioligand on 2AR365N-N b80 and 2AR365N-N b69 to a similar extend were reassayed in duplicate and ranked once more using the data of the three independent assays. This comparative assay enables to triage 2AR fragment hits into three separate functional profiles: • Fragments that are more selective for 2AR365N-Nb80 compared to 2AR365N-N b69, similar to the natural and synthetic 2AR agonist epinephrine and isoproterenol, respectively (agonist profile).

• Fragments that displace radioligand on 2AR365N-N b80 and 2AR365N-N b69 to a similar extend, similar to alprenolol (antagonist profile)

• Fragments that are more selective for 2AR365N-Nb69 compared to 2AR365N-N b80, similar to ICI118551 (inverse agonist profile).

As a representative example, the % [3H]-dihydroalprenolol binding of 6 fragments is presented in Figure 17 showing that we can profile the different fragments according to their efficacy: 2 fragments, represented by AC23506, CC56213, from the 12 higest ranked fragments having an agonist profile, preferentially bind the active conformation of 2AR, 2 fragments (KM08985, AW00189) from the best ranked fragments having an inverse agonist profile preferentially bind the prominent conformation (inverse agonist profile) and 2 fragments (CC46746, CC44914) bind both conformations with the same affinity (antagonists profile). Remarkably, only one fragment of the top 12 hits with agonist profile has a catecholamine structure, characteristic for the endogenous and several synthetic 2AR agonists.

Example 24: Analysis of the activity profiles of the selected fragments by comparative radioligand competition assays.

The profiles of the selected 18 fragment hits, 12 with the agonist activity profile, 3 with the antagonistic activity profile and the 3 with the inverse agonist activity profile were subsequently confirmed by comparing the dose response curves on the 2AR365N-N b80 fusion versus the 2AR365N-N b69 fusion as described in Example 6. Briefly, membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the different recombinant fusion proteins were mixed with each of the 18 fragment hits, concentrations ranging from 4 x 10"7M to 4 x 10"4M in binding buffer, the radioligand [3H]-dihydroalprenolol was added to each mixture and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform. Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand as described in Example 6. Data represent the mean ± SD (standard deviation) of each experiment performed in triplicate. Graphs were generated by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA). The dose response curves on the active state stabilized 2AR365N-N b80 fusion versus the 2AR365N-N b69 fusion (the prominent conformation of the receptor) confirms the activity profiles of the 18 fragments choosen in Example 23. Surprisingly, 11 out of the 12 identified fragments belonging to the agonist profile have never been associated with 2AR ligands with agonist activity. (A representative example of a dose response curve of 2 fragments for each activity profile (agonist, antagonist, inverse agonist) is shown in Figure 18). Fragments AC23506, CC56213 clearly bind with a higher affinity the active state sta bilized 2AR365N-N b80 fusion then the 2AR365N-N b69 fusion (Figure 18A). For fragments KM08985, AW00189 we see the opposite (Figure 18C) while the fragments CC46746, CC44914 with an antagonistic profile bind both conformations with the same affinity (Figure 18B). Example 25: Analysis of pharmacological properties of elaborated fragments by comparative radioligand assays.

To demonstrate that the comparative radioligand assay can guide elaboration of fragments with an agonistic profile, a fragment CC56213 was chosen on the basis of their dose respons curves to elaborate. Multiple chemical variants were subsequently tested in the comparative radioligand assay as (Figure 19) as described in Example 6. Briefly, membranes of Sf9 cells expressing the 2AR365N- N b80 fusion or the 2AR365N-N b69 fusion proteins were mixed with each of the elaborated fragments (called compound 8, 9, 10) as well as with the original fragment CC56213, concentrations ranging from 10"9M to 10"3M in binding buffer, the radioligand [3H]-dihydroalprenolol was added to each mixture and samples were incubated for 2 hours at room temperature on a shaking platform. Receptor-bound radioligand was separated from free radioligand as described in Example 6. Data represent the mean ± SEM (standard error of Mean) of each experiment performed in triplicate. Graphs were generated by nonlinear regression analysis using Prism (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA).

Compound 8 had a decreased affinity compared to the parent fragment (data not shown) while compound 9 and 10 had increased potency compared to the parent fragment CC56213. The improved affinity of the elaborated fragments (compounds 9, 10) versus the parent compounds were demonstrated by calculating the IC50 values for each 2AR conformer. The increase affinity of the 2AR365N-N b80 chimer for the elaborated compounds 9, 10 and the parent fragment CC56213 compared to the control 2AR365N-N b69 can be calculated from the ratio of the IC50 values from the competitive binding experiments depicted in Figure 19 by dividing the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b69 by the IC50 of 2AR365N-N b80, resulting in an apparent potency shift of = 71, 94, 22 for compound 9, 10, CC56213, respectively. Notably, compound 10 is not only more potent than its parent fragment CC56213 and but is a fivefold more selective for the active state stabilized 2AR.

Example 26: Profiling for agonism with the ADRB2 cAMP Biosensor Assays (HitHunter - DiscoveRx) To test if the fragments with an 'agonist profile' (12 fragments described in Example 23 and 24) are able to induce 2AR signaling, the 18 fragments from Example 23 were tested at the DiscoveRx facility at 2 concentrations (2mM and ΙΟΟμΜ) in a cellular assay, measuring G protein mediated i2AR activation. The % of DMSO in the HitHunter assay was < 1%, a concentration that was demonstrated not to be toxic for the 2AR cells used. As controls epinephrine (ΙμΜ & 50nM) and alprenolol (Ο,ΙμΜ & 5nM) were included in the assay. The HitHunter® cAMP assay (DiscoveRx) monitors the activation of a GPCR via secondary messenger cAMP accumulation. The maximal synthesis of cAMP caused by the control agonist isoproterenol was set as 100% and the agonistic behavior of the tested compounds was expressed relative to isoproterenol agonism (data not shown). Remarkably, at the concentrations tested, the HitHunter bio-assay only identifies three fragments, including CC56213, that cause a detecta ble and dose depending 2AR signaling activity. It is a well-known feature of fragment libraries that many fragments are toxic for cells at mM concentrations and will not be identified in cellular assays. It thus appears that we can identify multiple fragments with a particular biological activity profile that cannot be identified in cellular assays, currently used for fragment screening and HTS.

Table 1. List of Nanobodies

Nanobody Nanobody SEQ ID NO Sequence

reference short

number notation

NTLYLQM NSLKH EDTAVYYCAARAPVGQSSSPYDYDY WGQGTQVTVSS

CA4910 N blO 20 QVQLQESGGGLVQPGGSLRLSCAASGSFRSIVSMAWY

RQAPGKQRELVASSNSGGSTNYADSVKGRFTISRDNA KNTVYLQM NSLKPEDTAVYWCNVQNRLPGFDAFSGR SIAETYWGQGTQVTVSS

Table 2. CDRs of listed Nanobodies

Table 3. Ligand dependent potency shifts on active state constrained 2AR. Values represent the ratio of the IC50 of the indicated non-constrained 2AR (as a fusion to mock N b69 or as non-fused receptor) to the IC50 of the receptor constrained in the active state (Nb80 or Nb71 fusion)

N D: not determined

Table 4. IC50s of ligands for M2Ai3R-N b9-l compared to M2Ai3R

Table 6. IC50s of ligands for the 2AR-Nb60 compared to 2AR-Nb69

Table 7. IC50s and fold preference of ligands for prominent (hMorl-34GS-NblO) and active state stabilized (hMorl-34GS-Nb33) Mori conformers.

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CLAIMS

1. A chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPC fused to a binding domain, wherein said binding domain is directed against and/or capable of specifically binding to the GPCR.

2. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1, wherein the binding domain is not a naturally-occurring binding partner.

3. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-2, wherein the binding domain is fused to the GPCR either directly or through a linker.

4. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-3, wherein the binding domain is a conformation-selective binding domain.

5. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-4, wherein the GPCR is stabilized in an active conformation upon binding of the binding domain.

6. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 5, wherein the active conformation is an agonist conformation, a partial agonist conformation, a biased agonist conformation.

7. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-4, wherein the GPCR is stabilized in an inactive conformation upon binding of the binding domain.

8. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 7, wherein the inactive conformation is an inverse agonist conformation.

9. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-8, wherein the GPCR has an increased affinity for a conformation-selective ligand as compared to the corresponding non-fused GPCR.

10. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-9, wherein the binding domain binds to an intracellular epitope of the GPCR.

11. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 10, wherein said intracellular epitope is comprised in a binding site for a downstream signaling protein.

12. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 10, wherein said intracellular epitope is comprised in the G protein binding site.

13. The chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-12, wherein said binding domain comprises an amino acid sequence that comprises 4 framework regions (FR1 to FR4) and 3 complementary determining regions (CDR1 to CDR3), or any suitable fragment thereof.

14. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-13, wherein the binding domain is an immunoglobulin single variable domain.

15. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 14, wherein the immunoglobulin single variable domain is derived from a heavy chain antibody.

16. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 14, wherein the immunoglobulin single variable domain comprises a VHH sequence or a Nanobody sequence.

17. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-16, wherein the GPC is a naturally occurring GPCR.

18. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-17, wherein the GPCR is a variant of a naturally occurring GPCR or a truncated form of a naturally occurring GPCR.

19. The chimeric polypeptide of claim 1-18, wherein the GPCR is chosen from the group comprising a GPCR of the Glutamate family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the Rhodopsin family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the

Adhesion family of GPCRs, a GPCR of the Frizzled/Taste2 family of GPCRs, and a GPCR of the Secretin family of GPCRs.

20. A complex comprising a chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19 and a receptor ligand.

21. The chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19, or the complex of claim 20, which is crystalline.

22. A nucleic acid molecule comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding the chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19.

23. A host cell comprising the nucleic acid sequence of claim 22.

24. The host cell according to claim 23, which is a bacterial cell, a yeast cell, a mammalian cell, an insect cell.

25. A membrane composition comprising the chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19 or the complex of claim 20.

26. A method to produce a chimeric polypeptide comprising a GPCR fused to a binding domain, the method comprising the steps of culturing a host cell of claims 23-24 under suitable conditions and optionally isolating the chimeric polypeptide.

27. A method to display a GPCR in an active or inactive conformation at the cellular surface or in a particular cellular membrane fraction of a host cell, the method comprising the steps of providing a host cell of claims 23-24 and culturing the cell under suitable conditions to express the chimeric polypeptide.

28. A method of identifying conformation-selective compounds, the method comprising the steps of (i) Providing a chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19, and

(ii) Providing a test compound, and

(iii) Evaluating the selective binding of the test compound to the GPCR comprised in the

chimeric polypeptide.

29. The method of claim 28, wherein the conformation-selective compound that is identified is an agonistic compound, such as an agonistic small molecule or antibody.

30. Use of a chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19 or a complex of claim 20 to crystallize and/or to solve the structure of the GPCR.

31. Use of a chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19 or a complex of claim 20 to capture a GPCR in a functional conformational state.

32. A kit comprising a chimeric polypeptide of claims 1-19 or a host cell of claims 23-24.

33. A compound identified by using the method of claims 28-29, such as a small molecule or an antibody.

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