Molecular pharmacology

Individually monitoring ligand-induced changes in the structure of the GABAA receptor at benzodiazepine binding site and non-binding-site interfaces.

PMID 18424553


The mechanisms by which the GABA and benzodiazepine (BZD) binding sites of the GABA-A receptor are allosterically coupled remain elusive. In this study, we separately monitored ligand-induced structural changes in the BZD binding site (alpha/gamma interface) and at aligned positions in the alpha/beta interface. alpha(1)His101 and surrounding residues were individually mutated to cysteine and expressed with wild-type beta2 and gamma2 subunits in Xenopus laevis oocytes. The accessibilities of introduced cysteines to modification by methanethiosulfonate ethylammonium (MTSEA)-Biotin were measured in the presence and absence of GABA-site agonists, antagonists, BZDs, and pentobarbital. The presence of flurazepam or the BZD-site antagonist flumazenil (Ro15-1788) decreased the rate of modification of alpha(1)H101C at the BZD binding site. GABA and muscimol each increased MTSEA-Biotin modification of alpha(1)H101C located at the BZD-site, gabazine (SR-95531, a GABA binding site antagonist) decreased the rate, whereas pentobarbital had no effect. Modification of alpha(1)H101C at the alpha/beta interface was significantly slower than modification of alpha(1)H101C at the BZD site, and the presence of GABA or flurazepam had no effect on its accessibility, indicating the physicochemical environments of the alpha/gamma and alpha/beta interfaces are different. The data are consistent with the idea that GABA-binding site occupation by agonists causes a GABA binding cavity closure that is directly coupled to BZD binding cavity opening, and GABA-site antagonist binding causes a movement linked to BZD binding cavity closure. Pentobarbital binding/gating resulted in no observable movements in the BZD binding site near alpha(1)H101C, indicating that structural mechanisms underlying allosteric coupling between the GABA and BZD binding sites are distinct.

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