[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuromuscular acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) have two transmitter binding sites: at α-δ and either α-γ (fetal) or α-ε (adult) subunit interfaces. The γ-subunit of fetal AChRs is indispensable for the proper development of neuromuscular synapses. We estimated parameters for acetylcholine (ACh) binding and gating from single channel currents of fetal mouse AChRs expressed in tissue-cultured cells. The unliganded gating equilibrium constant is smaller and less voltage-dependent than in adult AChRs. However, the α-γ binding site has a higher affinity for ACh and provides more binding energy for gating compared with α-ε; therefore, the diliganded gating equilibrium constant at -100 mV is comparable for both receptor subtypes. The -2.2 kcal/mol extra binding energy from α-γ compared with α-δ and α-ε is accompanied by a higher resting affinity for ACh, mainly because of slower transmitter dissociation. End plate current simulations suggest that the higher affinity and increased energy from α-γ are essential for generating synaptic responses at low pulse [ACh].
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuromuscular acetylcholine (ACh) receptors have two conserved prolines in loop D of the complimentary subunit at each of their two transmitter binding sites (α-ε and α-δ). We used single-channel electrophysiology to estimate the energy changes caused by mutations of these prolines with regard to the unliganded gating (ΔG0) and the affinity change for ACh that powers channel-opening (ΔGB). The effects of mutations of ProD2 (εP121/δP123) were greater than of its neighbor (εP120/δP122), and were greater at α-ε vs. α-δ. The main consequence of the congenital myasthenic syndrome mutation εProD2-L is to impair the establishment of a high affinity for ACh. At both binding sites, most ProD2 mutations decreased constitutive activity (increased ΔG0). LRYHQG and RLKG substitutions of ProD2 reduced the net binding energy (made ΔGB(ACh) less negative by >1 kcal/mol) at α-ε and α-δ, respectively. Mutant cycle analyses were used to estimate energy coupling between the two ProD2 residues, and between each ProD2 and glycine residues (αG147 and αG153) on the primary (α-subunit) side of each binding pocket. The binding sites interact weakly and ProD2 interacts strongly with αG147, but only when ACh is present. The results suggest that in the low-to-high affinity conformational switch there is a concerted, inter-subunit strain in the backbones at ProD2 and αG147. It is possible to engineer receptors having a single functional binding site by using a α-ε or α-δ ProD2-R mutation. The energy from the affinity change for ACh is approximately the same at the two binding sites (~-5 kcal/mol).
Journal of Biological Chemistry 03/2013; · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Agonist molecules at the two neuromuscular acetylcholine (ACh) receptor (AChR) transmitter-binding sites increase the probability of channel opening. In one hypothesis for AChR activation ("priming"), the capping of loop C at each binding site transfers energy independently to the distant gate over a discrete structural pathway. We used single-channel analyses to examine the experimental support for this proposal with regard to brief unliganded openings, the effects of loop-C modifications, the effects of mutations to residues either on or off the putative pathway, and state models for describing currents at low [ACh]. The results show that (a) diliganded and brief unliganded openings are generated by the same essential, global transition; (b) the radical manipulation of loop C does not prevent channel opening but impairs agonist binding; (c) both on- and off-pathway mutations alter gating by changing the relative stability of the open-channel conformation by local interactions rather than by perturbing a specific site-gate communication link; and (d) it is possible to estimate directly the rate constants for agonist dissociation from and association to both the low and high affinity forms of the AChR-binding site by using a cyclic kinetic model. We conclude that the mechanism of energy transfer between the binding sites and the gate remains an open question.
The Journal of General Physiology 03/2013; · 4.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Agonists, including the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh), bind at two sites in the neuromuscular ACh receptor channel (AChR) to promote a reversible, global change in protein conformation that regulates the flow of ions across the muscle cell membrane. In the synaptic cleft, ACh is hydrolyzed to acetate and choline. Replacement of the transmitter's ester acetyl group with a hydroxyl (ACh→choline) results in a +1.8 kcal/mol reduction in the energy for gating generated by each agonist molecule from a low- to high-affinity change of the transmitter binding site (ΔG(B)). To understand the distinct actions of structurally related agonist molecules, we measured ΔG(B) for 10 related choline derivatives. Replacing the hydroxyl group of choline with different substituents, such as hydrogen, chloride, methyl, or amine, increased the energy for gating (i.e., it made ΔG(B) more negative relative to choline). Extending the ethyl hydroxide tail of choline to propyl and butyl hydroxide also increased this energy. Our findings reveal the amount of energy that is available for the AChR conformational change provided by different, structurally related agonists. We speculate that a hydrogen bond between the choline hydroxyl and the backbone carbonyl of αW149 positions this agonist's quaternary ammonium group so as to reduce the cation-π interaction between this moiety and the aromatic groups at the binding site.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ligand-gated ion channels are allosteric membrane proteins that isomerize between C(losed) and O(pen) conformations. A difference in affinity for ligands in the two shapes influences the C↔O 'gating' equilibrium constant. The energies associated with adult-type mouse neuromuscular nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-channel (AChR) gating have been measured by using single-channel electrophysiology. Without ligands the free energy, enthalpy and entropy of gating are ΔG(0)=+8.4, ΔH(0)=+10.9 and ΔS(0)=+2.4 kcal/mol (-100 mV, 23 (o)C). Many mutations throughout the protein change ΔG(0), including natural ones that cause disease. Agonists and most mutations change approximately independently the ground state energy difference, so it is possible to forecast and engineer AChR responses simply by combining perturbations. The free energy of the low↔high affinity change for the neurotransmitter at each of two functionally-equivalent binding sites is ΔG(B)(ACh)=-5.1 kcal/mol. ΔG(B)(ACh) is set mainly by interactions of ACh with just three binding site aromatic groups. For a series of structurally-related agonists there is a correlation between the energies of low- and high-affinity binding, which implies that gating commences with the formation of the low affinity complex. Brief, intermediate states in binding and gating have been detected. Several proposals for the nature of the gating transition state energy landscape and the isomerization mechanism are discussed.
Journal of Molecular Biology 01/2013; · 3.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A primary target for nicotine is the acetylcholine receptor channel (AChR). Some of the ability of nicotine to activate differentially AChR subtypes has been traced to a transmitter-binding site amino acid that is glycine in lower affinity and lysine in higher affinity AChRs. We studied the effects of mutations of this residue (αG153) in neuromuscular AChRs activated by nicotine and eight other agonists including nornicotine and anabasine. All of the mutations increased the unliganded gating equilibrium constant. The affinity of the resting receptor (K(d)) and the net binding energy from the agonist for gating (ΔG(B)) were estimated by cross-concentration fitting of single-channel currents. In all but one of the agonist/mutant combinations there was a moderate decrease in K(d) and essentially no change in ΔG(B). The exceptional case was nicotine plus lysine, which showed a large, >8,000-fold decrease in K(d) but no change in ΔG(B). The extraordinary specificity of this combination leads us to speculate that AChRs with a lysine at position αG153 may be exposed to a nicotine-like compound in vivo.
The Journal of General Physiology 01/2013; 141(1):95-104. · 4.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In neuromuscular acetylcholine (ACh) receptor channels (AChRs), agonist molecules bind with a low affinity (LA) to two sites that can switch to high affinity (HA) and increase the probability of channel opening. We measured (by using single-channel kinetic analysis) the rate and equilibrium constants for LA binding and channel gating for several different agonists of adult-type mouse AChRs. Almost all of the variation in the equilibrium constants for LA binding was from differences in the association rate constants. These were consistently below the limit set by diffusion and were substantially different even though the agonists had similar sizes and the same charge. This suggests that binding to resting receptors is not by diffusion alone and, hence, that each binding site can undergo two conformational changes ("catch" and "hold") that connect three different structures (apo-, LA-bound, and HA-bound). Analyses of ACh-binding protein structures suggest that this binding site, too, may adopt three discrete structures having different degrees of loop C displacement ("capping"). For the agonists we tested, the logarithms of the equilibrium constants for LA binding and LA↔HA gating were correlated. Although agonist binding and channel gating have long been considered to be separate processes in the activation of ligand-gated ion channels, this correlation implies that the catch-and-hold conformational changes are energetically linked and together comprise an integrated process having a common structural basis. We propose that loop C capping mainly reflects agonist binding, with its two stages corresponding to the formation of the LA and HA complexes. The catch-and-hold reaction coordinate is discussed in terms of preopening states and thermodynamic cycles of activation.
The Journal of General Physiology 07/2012; 140(1):17-28. · 4.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) mediate signaling in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The AChR gating conformational change is powered by a low- to high-affinity change for neurotransmitters at two transmitter binding sites. We estimated (from single-channel currents) the components of energy for gating arising from binding site aromatic residues in the α-subunit. All mutations reduced the energy (TyrC1>TrpB≈TyrC2>TyrA), with TyrC1 providing ~40% of the total. Considered one at a time, the fractional energy contributions from the aromatic rings were TrpB ~35%, TyrC1 ~28%, TyrC2 ~28%, and TyrA ~10%. Together, TrpB, TyrC1, and TyrC2 comprise an "aromatic triad" that provides much of the total energy from the transmitter for gating. Analysis of mutant pairs suggests that the energy contributions from some residues are nearly independent. Mutations of TyrC1 cause particularly large energy reductions because they remove two favorable and approximately equal interactions between the aromatic ring and the quaternary amine of the agonist and between the hydroxyl and αLysβ7.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2012; 109(24):9384-9. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) channels at neuromuscular synapses rarely open in the absence of agonists, but many different mutations increase the unliganded gating equilibrium constant (E0) to generate AChRs that are active constitutively. We measured E0 for two different sets of mutant combinations and by extrapolation estimated E0 for wild-type AChRs. The estimates were 7.6 and 7.8×10(-7) in adult-type mouse AChRs (-100 mV at 23°C). The values are in excellent agreement with one obtained previously by using a completely different method (6.5×10(-7), from monoliganded gating). E0 decreases with depolarization to the same extent as does the diliganded gating equilibrium constant, e-fold with ∼60 mV. We estimate that at -100 mV the intrinsic energy of the unliganded gating isomerization is +8.4 kcal/mol (35 kJ/mol), and that in the absence of a membrane potential, the intrinsic chemical energy of this global conformational change is +9.4 kcal/mol (39 kJ/mol). Na+ and K+ in the extracellular solution have no measureable effect on E0, which suggests that unliganded gating occurs with only water occupying the transmitter binding sites. The results are discussed with regard to the energy changes in receptor activation and the competitive antagonism of ions in agonist binding.
The Journal of General Physiology 05/2012; 139(5):349-58. · 4.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acetylcholine receptor-channels (AChRs) mediate fast synaptic transmission between nerve and muscle. In order to better-understand the mechanism by which this protein assembles and isomerizes between closed- and open-channel conformations we measured changes in the diliganded gating equilibrium constant (E(2)) consequent to mutations of residues at the C-terminus of loop 9 (L9) in the α and ε subunits of mouse neuromuscular AChRs. These amino acids are close to two interesting interfaces, between the extracellular and transmembrane domain within a subunit (E–T interface) and between primary and complementary subunits (P–C interface). Most α subunit mutations modestly decreased E(2) (mainly by slowing the channel-opening rate constant) and sometimes produced AChRs that had heterogeneous gating kinetic properties. Mutations in the ε subunit had a larger effect and could either increase or decrease E(2), but did not induce kinetic heterogeneity. There are broad-but-weak energetic interactions between αL9 residues and others at the αE–T interface, as well as between the εL9 residue and others at the P–C interface (in particular, the M2–M3 linker). These interactions serve, in part, to maintain the structural integrity of the AChR assembly at the E–T interface. Overall, the energy changes of L9 residues are significant but smaller than in other regions of the protein.
The Journal of Physiology 01/2012; 590(Pt 1):119-29. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuromuscular acetylcholine receptors have long been a model system for understanding the mechanisms of operation of ligand-gated ion channels and fast chemical synapses. These five subunit membrane proteins have two allosteric (transmitter) binding sites and a distant ion channel domain. Occupation of the binding sites by agonist molecules transiently increases the probability that the channel is ion-permeable. Recent experiments show that the Monod, Wyman and Changeux formalism for allosteric proteins, originally developed for haemoglobin, is an excellent model for acetylcholine receptors. By using mutations and single-channel electrophysiology, the gating equilibrium constants for receptors with zero, one or two bound agonist molecules, and the agonist association and dissociation rate constants from both the closed- and open-channel conformations, have been estimated experimentally. The change in affinity for each transmitter molecule between closed and open conformations provides ~-5.1 kcal mol(-1) towards the global gating isomerization of the protein.
The Journal of Physiology 08/2011; 590(Pt 1):93-8. · 4.38 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The extent to which agonists activate synaptic receptor-channels depends on both the intrinsic tendency of the unliganded receptor to open and the amount of agonist binding energy realized in the channel-opening process. We examined mutations of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor transmitter binding site (α subunit loop B) with regard to both of these parameters. αGly147 is an "activation" hinge where backbone flexibility maintains high values for intrinsic gating, the affinity of the resting conformation for agonists and net ligand binding energy. αGly153 is a "deactivation" hinge that maintains low values for these parameters. αTrp149 (between these two glycines) serves mainly to provide ligand binding energy for gating. We propose that a concerted motion of the two glycine hinges (plus other structural elements at the binding site) positions αTrp149 so that it provides physiologically optimal binding and gating function at the nerve-muscle synapse.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Allosteric proteins use energy derived from ligand binding to promote a global change in conformation. The "gating" equilibrium constant of acetylcholine receptor-channels (AChRs) is influenced by ligands, mutations, and membrane voltage. We engineered AChRs to have specific values of this constant by combining these perturbations, and then calculated the corresponding values for a reference condition. AChRs were designed to have specific rate and equilibrium constants simply by adding multiple, energetically independent mutations with known effects on gating. Mutations and depolarization (to remove channel block) changed the diliganded gating equilibrium constant only by changing the unliganded gating equilibrium constant (E(0)) and did not alter the energy from ligand binding. All of the tested perturbations were approximately energetically independent. We conclude that naturally occurring mutations mainly adjust E(0) and cause human disease because they generate AChRs that have physiologically inappropriate values of this constant. The results suggest that the energy associated with a structural change of a side chain in the gating isomerization is dissipated locally and is mainly independent of rigid body or normal mode motions of the protein. Gating rate and equilibrium constants are estimated for seven different AChR agonists using a stepwise engineering approach.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2011; 108(11):4328-33. · 9.74 Impact Factor