New insights into the structural bases of activation of Cys-loop receptors.
ABSTRACT Neurotransmitter receptors of the Cys-loop superfamily mediate rapid synaptic transmission throughout the nervous system, and include receptors activated by ACh, GABA, glycine and serotonin. They are involved in physiological processes, including learning and memory, and in neurological disorders, and they are targets for clinically relevant drugs. Cys-loop receptors assemble either from five copies of one type of subunit, giving rise to homomeric receptors, or from several types of subunits, giving rise to heteromeric receptors. Homomeric receptors are invaluable models for probing fundamental relationships between structure and function. Receptors contain a large extracellular domain that carries the binding sites and a transmembrane region that forms the ion pore. How the structural changes elicited by agonist binding are propagated through a distance of 50Å to the ion channel gate is central to understanding receptor function. Depending on the receptor subtype, occupancy of either two, as in the prototype muscle nicotinic receptor, or three binding sites, as in homomeric receptors, is required for full activation. The conformational changes initiated at the binding sites are propagated to the gate through the interface between the extracellular and transmembrane domains. This region forms a network that relays structural changes from the binding site towards the pore, and also contributes to open channel lifetime and rate of desensitization. Thus, this coupling region controls the beginning and duration of a synaptic response. Here we review recent advances in the molecular mechanism by which Cys-loop receptors are activated with particular emphasis on homomeric receptors.
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ABSTRACT: Neuronal α7 nicotinic receptors elicit rapid cation influx in response to acetylcholine (ACh) or its hydrolysis product choline. They contribute to cognition, synaptic plasticity, and neuroprotection and have been implicated in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. α7, however, often localizes distal to sites of nerve-released ACh and binds ACh with low affinity, and thus elicits its biological response with low agonist occupancy. To assess the function of α7 when ACh occupies fewer than five of its identical binding sites, we measured the open-channel lifetime of individual receptors in which four of the five ACh binding sites were disabled. To improve the time resolution of the inherently brief α7 channel openings, background mutations or a potentiator was used to increase open duration. We find that, in receptors with only one intact binding site, the open-channel lifetime is indistinguishable from receptors with five intact binding sites, counter to expectations from prototypical neurotransmitter-gated ion channels where the open-channel lifetime increases with the number of binding sites occupied by agonist. Replacing the membrane-embedded domain of α7 by that of the related 5-HT3A receptor increases the number of sites that need to be occupied to achieve the maximal open-channel lifetime, thus revealing a unique interdependence between the detector and actuator domains of these receptors. The distinctive ability of a single occupancy to elicit a full biological response adapts α7 to volume transmission, a prevalent mechanism of ACh-mediated signaling in the nervous system and nonneuronal cells.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The prevalence of human and animal helminth infections remains staggeringly high, thus urging the need for concerted efforts towards this area of research. GABA receptors, encoded by the unc-49 gene, mediate body muscle inhibition in Caenorhabditis elegans and parasitic nematodes and are targets of anthelmintic drugs. Thus, the characterization of nematode GABA receptors provides a foundation for rational anti-parasitic drug design. We therefore explored UNC-49 channels from C. elegans muscle cultured cells of the first larval stage at the electrophysiological and behavioral levels. Whole-cell recordings reveal that GABA, muscimol and the anthelmintic piperazine elicit macroscopic currents from UNC-49 receptors that decay in their sustained presence, indicating full desensitization. Single-channel recordings show that all drugs elicit openings of ∼2.5 pA (+100 mV), which appear either as brief isolated events or in short bursts. The comparison of the lowest concentration required for detectable channel opening, the frequency of openings and the amplitude of macroscopic currents suggest that piperazine is the least efficacious of the three drugs. Macroscopic and single-channel GABA-activated currents are profoundly and apparently irreversibly inhibited by ivermectin. To gain further insight into ivermectin action at C. elegans muscle, we analyzed its effect on single-channel activity of the levamisol-sensitive nicotinic receptor (L-AChR), the excitatory receptor involved in neuromuscular transmission. Ivermectin produces a profound inhibition of the frequency of channel opening without significant changes in channel properties. By revealing that ivermectin inhibits C. elegans muscle GABA and L-AChR receptors, our study adds two receptors to the already known ivermectin targets, thus contributing to the elucidation of its pleiotropic effects. Behavioral assays in worms show that ivermectin potentiates piperazine-induced paralysis, thus suggesting that their combination is a good strategy to overcome the increasing resistance of parasites, an issue of global concern for human and animal health.PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e95072. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: 5-hydroxytryptamine type-3 receptor (5-HT3), an important target of many neuroactive drugs, is a cation selective transmembrane pentamer whose functional stoichiometries and subunit arrangements are still debated, due to the extreme complexity of the system. The three dimensional structure of the 5-HT3R subunits has not been solved so far. Moreover, most of the available structural and functional data is related to the extracellular ligand-binding domain, whereas the transmembrane and the intracellular receptor domains are far less characterised, although they are crucial for receptor function. Here, for the first time, 3D homology models of the transmembrane and the intracellular receptor domains of all the known human 5-HT3 subunits have been built and assembled into homopentameric (5-HT3AR, 5-HT3BR, 5-HT3CR, 5-HT3DR and 5-HT3ER) and heteropentameric receptors (5-HT3AB, 5-HT3AC, 5-HT3AD and 5-HT3AE), on the basis of the known three-dimensional structures of the nicotinic-acetylcholine receptor and of the ligand gated channel from Erwinia chrysanthemi. The comparative analyses of sequences, modelled structures, and computed electrostatic properties of the single subunits and of the assembled pentamers shed new light both on the stoichiometric composition and on the physicochemical requirements of the functional receptors. In particular, it emerges that a favourable environment for the crossing of the pore at the transmembrane and intracellular C terminus domain levels by Ca(2+) ions is granted by the maximum presence of two B subunits in the 5-HT3 pentamer.Journal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design 06/2013; · 3.17 Impact Factor