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Adenylyl cyclases (ACs) catalyze the conversion of ATP to the ubiquitous second messenger cAMP. Mammals possess nine isoforms of transmembrane ACs, dubbed AC1-9, that serve as major effector enzymes of G protein-coupled receptors. The transmembrane ACs display varying expression patterns across tissues, giving potential for them having a wide array of physiologic roles. Cells express multiple AC isoforms, implying that ACs have redundant functions. Furthermore, all transmembrane ACs are activated by Gαs so it was long assumed that all ACs are activated by Gαs-coupled GPCRs. AC isoforms partition to different microdomains of the plasma membrane and form prearranged signaling complexes with specific GPCRs that contribute to cAMP signaling compartments. This compartmentation allows for a diversity of cellular and physiological responses by enabling unique signaling events to be triggered by different pools of cAMP. Isoform specific pharmacological activators or inhibitors are lacking for most ACs, making knockdown and overexpression the primary tools for examining the physiological roles of a given isoform. Much progress has been made in understanding the physiological effects mediated through individual transmembrane ACs. GPCR-AC-cAMP signaling pathways play significant roles in regulating functions of every cell and tissue, so understanding each AC isoform's role holds potential for uncovering new approaches for treating a vast array of pathophysiological conditions.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Physiological Reviews, volume 102, issue 2, in 2021 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at


Physiological Reviews



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