The general function of Gs is to activate intracellular signaling pathways in response to activation of cell surface G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs function as part of a three-component system of receptor-transducer-effector. The transducer in this system is a heterotrimeric G protein, composed of three subunits: a Gα protein such as Gsα, and a complex of two tightly linked proteins called Gβ and Gγ in a Gβγ complex. When not stimulated by a receptor, Gα is bound to GDP and to Gβγ to form the inactive G protein trimer. When the receptor binds an activating ligand outside the cell (such as a hormone or neurotransmitter), the activated receptor acts as a guanine nucleotide exchange factor to promote GDP release from and GTP binding to Gα, which drives dissociation of GTP-bound Gα from Gβγ. In particular, GTP-bound, activated Gsα binds to adenylyl cyclase to produce the second messenger cAMP, which in turn activates the cAMP-dependent protein kinase (also called Protein Kinase A or PKA). Cellular effects of Gsα acting through PKA are described here.
Although each GTP-bound Gsα can activate only one adenylyl cyclase enzyme, amplification of the signal occurs because one receptor can activate multiple copies of Gs while that receptor remains bound to its activating agonist, and each Gsα-bound adenylyl cyclase enzyme can generate substantial cAMP to activate many copies of PKA.