Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Disruption of the Na+ ion binding site as a mechanism for positive allosteric modulation of the mu-opioid receptor.

PMID 25489080


Positive allosteric modulation of the mu-opioid receptor (MOPr), the site of action of all clinically used opioids, represents a potential approach for the management of pain. We recently reported on positive allosteric modulators of MOPr (mu-PAMs), a class A G protein coupled receptor (GPCR). This study was designed to examine the mechanism of allostery by comparing the degree to which opioid ligand structure governs modulation. To do this we examined the interaction of the mu-PAM, BMS-986122, with a chemically diverse range of MOPr orthosteric ligands. Generally, for full agonists BMS-986122 enhanced the binding affinity and potency to activate G protein with no alteration in the maximal effect. In contrast, lower efficacy agonists including morphine were insensitive to alterations in binding affinity and showed little to no change in potency to stimulate G protein. Instead, there was an increase in maximal G protein stimulation. Antagonists were unresponsive to the modulatory effects of BMS-986122. Sodium is a known endogenous allosteric modulator of MOPr and alters orthosteric agonist affinity and efficacy. The sensitivity of an orthosteric ligand to BMS-986122 was strongly correlated with its sensitivity to NaCl. In addition, BMS-986122 decreased the ability of NaCl to modulate agonist binding in an allosteric fashion. Overall, BMS-986122 displayed marked probe dependence that was based upon the efficacy of the orthosteric ligand and can be explained using the Monod-Wyman-Changeux two-state model of allostery. Furthermore, disruption of the Na(+) ion binding site may represent a common mechanism for allosteric modulation of class A GPCRs.