Article

On the benzodiazepine binding pocket in GABA(A) receptors

Department of Pharmacology, University of Bern, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland.
Journal of Biological Chemistry (Impact Factor: 4.6). 02/2004; 279(5):3160-8. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M311371200
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Benzodiazepines are used for their sedative/hypnotic, anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, and anticonvulsive effects. They exert their actions through a specific high affinity binding site on the major inhibitory neurotransmitter receptor, the gamma-aminobutyric acid, type A (GABA(A)) receptor channel, where they act as positive allosteric modulators. To start to elucidate the relative positioning of benzodiazepine binding site ligands in their binding pocket, GABA(A) receptor residues thought to reside in the site were individually mutated to cysteine and combined with benzodiazepine analogs carrying substituents reactive to cysteine. Direct apposition of such reactive partners is expected to lead to an irreversible site-directed reaction. We describe here the covalent interaction of alpha(1)H101C with a reactive group attached to the C-7 position of diazepam. This interaction was studied at the level of radioactive ligand binding and at the functional level using electrophysiological methods. Covalent reaction occurs concomitantly with occupancy of the binding pocket. It stabilizes the receptor in its allosterically stimulated conformation. Covalent modification is not observed in wild type receptors or when using mutated alpha(1)H101C-containing receptors in combination with the reactive ligand pre-reacted with a sulfhydryl group, and the modification rate is reduced by the binding site ligand Ro15-1788. We present in addition evidence that gamma(2)Ala-79 is probably located in the access pathway of the ligand to its binding pocket.

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