Propofol is an intravenous general anesthetic that alters neuronal excitability by modulating agonist responses of pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs). Evidence suggests that propofol enhancement of anion-selective pLGICs is mediated by a binding site between adjacent subunits, whereas propofol inhibition of cation-selective pLGICs occurs via a binding site contained within helices M1-M4 of individual subunits. We considered this idea by testing propofol modulation of homomeric human glycine receptors (GlyRs) and nematode glutamate-gated chloride channels (GluCls) recombinantly expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes with electrophysiology. The Haemonchus contortus AVR-14B GluCl was inhibited by propofol with an IC50 value of 252 ± 48 ?M, providing the first example of propofol inhibition of an anion-selective pLGIC. Remarkably, inhibition was converted to enhancement by a single I18'S substitution in the channel-forming M2 helix (EC50 = 979 ± 88 ?M). When a previously identified site between adjacent subunits was disrupted by the M3 G329I substitution, both propofol inhibition and enhancement of GluCls were severely impaired (IC50 and EC50 values could not be calculated). Similarly, when the equivalent positions were examined in GlyRs, the M2 S18'I substitution significantly altered the maximum level of enhancement by propofol, and the M3 A288I substitution abolished propofol enhancement. These data are not consistent with separate binding sites for the opposing effects of propofol. Instead, these data suggest that propofol enhancement and inhibition are mediated by binding to a single site in anion-selective pLGICs, and the modulatory effect on channel gating depends on the M2 18' residue.
Pentameric glycine receptors (GlyRs) couple agonist binding to activation of an intrinsic ion channel. Substitution of the R271 residue impairs agonist-induced activation and is associated with the human disease hyperekplexia. On the basis of a homology model of the ?1 GlyR, we substituted residues in the vicinity of R271 with cysteines, generating R271C, Q226C, and D284C single-mutant GlyRs and R271C/Q226C and R271C/D284C double-mutant GlyRs. We then examined the impact of interactions between these positions on receptor activation by glycine and modulation by the anesthetic propofol, as measured by electrophysiological experiments. Upon expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes, D284C-containing receptors were nonfunctional, despite biochemical evidence of successful cell surface expression. At R271C/Q226C GlyRs, glycine-activated whole-cell currents were increased 3-fold in the presence of the thiol reductant dithiothreitol, whereas the ability of propofol to enhance glycine-activated currents was not affected by dithiothreitol. Biochemical experiments showed that mutant R271C/Q226C subunits form covalently linked pentamers, showing that intersubunit disulfide cross-links are formed. These data indicate that intersubunit disulfide links in the transmembrane domain prevent a structural transition that is crucial to agonist-induced activation of GlyRs but not to modulation by the anesthetic propofol and implicate D284 in the functional integrity of GlyRs.
Idiopathic focal epilepsy (IFE) with rolandic spikes is the most common childhood epilepsy, comprising a phenotypic spectrum from rolandic epilepsy (also benign epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes, BECTS) to atypical benign partial epilepsy (ABPE), Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS) and epileptic encephalopathy with continuous spike and waves during slow-wave sleep (CSWS). The genetic basis is largely unknown. We detected new heterozygous mutations in GRIN2A in 27 of 359 affected individuals from 2 independent cohorts with IFE (7.5%; P = 4.83 × 10(-18), Fishers exact test). Mutations occurred significantly more frequently in the more severe phenotypes, with mutation detection rates ranging from 12/245 (4.9%) in individuals with BECTS to 9/51 (17.6%) in individuals with CSWS (P = 0.009, Cochran-Armitage test for trend). In addition, exon-disrupting microdeletions were found in 3 of 286 individuals (1.0%; P = 0.004, Fishers exact test). These results establish alterations of the gene encoding the NMDA receptor NR2A subunit as a major genetic risk factor for IFE.
Over-activation of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is critically involved in many neurological conditions, thus there has been considerable interest in developing NMDA receptor antagonists. We have recently identified a series of naphthoic and phenanthroic acid compounds that allosterically modulate NMDA receptors through a novel mechanism of action. In the present study, we have determined the structure-activity relationships of 18 naphthoic acid derivatives for the ability to inhibit the four GluN1/GluN2(A-D) NMDA receptor subtypes. 2-Naphthoic acid has low activity at GluN2A-containing receptors and yet lower activity at other NMDA receptors. 3-Amino addition, and especially 3-hydroxy addition, to 2-naphthoic acid increased inhibitory activity at GluN1/GluN2C and GluN1/GluN2D receptors. Further halogen and phenyl substitutions to 2-hydroxy-3-naphthoic acid leads to several relatively potent inhibitors, the most potent of which is UBP618 (1-bromo-2-hydroxy-6-phenylnaphthalene-3-carboxylic acid) with an IC(50) ? 2 ?M at each of the NMDA receptor subtypes. While UBP618 is non-selective, elimination of the hydroxyl group in UBP618, as in UBP628 and UBP608, leads to an increase in GluN1/GluN2A selectivity. Of the compounds evaluated, specifically those with a 6-phenyl substitution were less able to fully inhibit GluN1/GluN2A, GluN1/GluN2B and GluN1/GluN2C responses (maximal % inhibition of 60-90%). Such antagonists may potentially have reduced adverse effects by not excessively blocking NMDA receptor signaling. Together, these studies reveal discrete structure-activity relationships for the allosteric antagonism of NMDA receptors that may facilitate the development of NMDA receptor modulator agents for a variety of neuropsychiatric and neurological conditions.
Glycinergic synapses play a major role in shaping the activity of spinal cord neurons under normal conditions and during persistent pain. However, the role of different glycine receptor (GlyR) subtypes in pain processing has only begun to be unraveled. Here, we analysed whether the GlyR alpha2 subunit might be involved in the processing of acute or persistent pain. Real-time RT-PCR and in situ hybridization analyses revealed that GlyR alpha2 mRNA is enriched in the dorsal horn of the mouse spinal cord. Mice lacking GlyR alpha2 (Glra2(-/-) mice) demonstrated a normal nociceptive behavior in models of acute pain and after peripheral nerve injury. However, mechanical hyperalgesia induced by peripheral injection of zymosan was significantly prolonged in Glra2(-/-) mice as compared to wild-type littermates. We conclude that spinal GlyRs containing the alpha2 subunit exert a previously unrecognized role in the resolution of inflammatory pain.
N-Glycosylation is normally a co-translational process that occurs as soon as a nascent and unfolded polypeptide chain has emerged ~12 residues into the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Here, we describe the efficient utilization of an N-glycosylation site engineered within the luminal extreme C-terminal residues of distinct integral membrane glycoproteins, a native ER resident protein and an engineered secreted protein. This N-glycan addition required that the acceptor asparagine within an Asn-Trp-Ser sequon be located at least four residues away from the C-terminus of the polypeptide and, in the case of membrane proteins, at least 13 residues away from the lumenal side of the transmembrane segment. Pulse-chase assays revealed that the natural N-glycans of the proteins studied were attached co-translationally, whereas C-terminal N-glycosylation occurred post-translocationally within a time frame of hours in Xenopus laevis oocytes and minutes in human embryonic kidney 293 (HEK293) cells. In oocyte and HEK cell expression systems, affinity tag-driven C-terminal N-glycosylation may facilitate the determination of orientation of the C-terminal tail of membrane proteins relative to the membrane.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors mediate excitatory neurotransmission in the mammalian brain. Two glycine-binding NR1 subunits and two glutamate-binding NR2 subunits each form highly Ca²(+)-permeable cation channels which are blocked by extracellular Mg²(+) in a voltage-dependent manner. Either GRIN2B or GRIN2A, encoding the NMDA receptor subunits NR2B and NR2A, was found to be disrupted by chromosome translocation breakpoints in individuals with mental retardation and/or epilepsy. Sequencing of GRIN2B in 468 individuals with mental retardation revealed four de novo mutations: a frameshift, a missense and two splice-site mutations. In another cohort of 127 individuals with idiopathic epilepsy and/or mental retardation, we discovered a GRIN2A nonsense mutation in a three-generation family. In a girl with early-onset epileptic encephalopathy, we identified the de novo GRIN2A mutation c.1845C>A predicting the amino acid substitution p.N615K. Analysis of NR1-NR2A(N615K) (NR2A subunit with the p.N615K alteration) receptor currents revealed a loss of the Mg²(+) block and a decrease in Ca²(+) permeability. Our findings suggest that disturbances in the neuronal electrophysiological balance during development result in variable neurological phenotypes depending on which NR2 subunit of NMDA receptors is affected.
Glycine has diverse functions within the mammalian central nervous system. It inhibits postsynaptic neurons via strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors (GlyRs) and enhances neuronal excitation through co-activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Classical Ca(2+)-permeable NMDA receptors are composed of glycine-binding NR1 and glutamate-binding NR2 subunits, and hence require both glutamate and glycine for efficient activation. In contrast, recombinant receptors composed of NR1 and the glycine binding NR3A and/or NR3B subunits lack glutamate binding sites and can be activated by glycine alone. Therefore these receptors are also named "excitatory glycine receptors". Co-application of antagonists of the NR1 glycine-binding site or of the divalent cation Zn(2+) markedly enhances the glycine responses of these receptors. To gain further insight into the properties of these glycine-gated NMDA receptors, we investigated their current-voltage (I-V) dependence. Whole-cell current-voltage relations of glycine currents recorded from NR1/NR3B and NR1/NR3A/NR3B expressing oocytes were found to be linear under our recording conditions. In contrast, NR1/NR3A receptors displayed a strong outwardly rectifying I-V relation. Interestingly, the voltage-dependent inward current block was abolished in the presence of NR1 antagonists, Zn(2+) or a combination of both. Further analysis revealed that Ca(2+) (1.8 mM) present in our recording solutions was responsible for the voltage-dependent inhibition of ion flux through NR1/NR3A receptors. Since physiological concentrations of the divalent cation Mg(2+) did not affect the I-V dependence, our data suggest that relief of the voltage-dependent Ca(2+) block of NR1/NR3A receptors by Zn(2+) may be important for the regulation of excitatory glycinergic transmission, according to the Mg(2+)-block of conventional NR1/NR2 NMDA receptors.
Tropeines are bidirectional modulators of native and recombinant glycine receptors (GlyRs) and promising leads for the development of novel modulatory agents. Tropisetron potentiates and inhibits agonist-triggered GlyR currents at femto- to nanomolar and micromolar concentrations respectively. Here, the potentiating and inhibitory effects of another tropeine, 3alpha-(3-methoxy-benzoyloxy)nortropane (MBN) were examined by voltage-clamp electrophysiology at wild type and mutant alpha1 GlyRs expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Several substitutions around the agonist-binding cavity of the alpha1 subunit interface (N46C, F63A, N102A, R119K, R131A, E157C, K200A, Y202L and F207A) were found to reduce or eliminate MBN inhibition of glycine activation. In contrast, the binding site mutations Q67A, R119A and S129A which did not affect MBN inhibition abolished the potentiation of chloride currents elicited by low concentrations of the partial agonist taurine following pre-incubation with MBN. Thus, potentiation and inhibition involve distinct binding modes of MBN in the inter-subunit agonist-binding pocket of alpha1 GlyRs. Homology modelling and molecular dynamics simulations disclosed two distinct docking modes for MBN, which are consistent with the differential effects of individual binding site substitutions on MBN inhibition and potentiation respectively. Together these results suggest that distinct binding modes at adjacent binding sites located within the agonist-binding pocket of the GlyR mediate the bidirectional modulatory effects of tropeines.
The divalent cation copper (Cu2+) has been shown to inhibit chloride currents mediated by the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR). Here, we analyzed Cu2+ inhibition of homo- and hetero-oligomeric GlyRs expressed in Xenopus oocytes. No significant differences in Cu2+ inhibitory potency were found between alpha1, alpha2 and alpha3 GlyRs as well as heteromeric alpha1beta receptors. Furthermore, GlyR alpha1 mutations known to reduce inhibition or potentiation of GlyR currents by Zn2+ had no effect on Cu2+ inhibition. However, Cu2+ was found to competitively antagonize glycine binding, suggesting that Cu2+ binds at the agonist-binding site. Mutations within the glycine-binding site of the GlyR alpha1 subunit reduced the inhibitory potency of Cu2+ and led to an up to 4-fold potentiation of glycine-elicited currents by Cu2+. Molecular dynamics simulation suggests this to be due to increased Cu2+ binding energies. Our data show that GlyR binding-site mutations can convert inhibitors of agonist binding into highly effective positive modulators.
Cys-loop receptors are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs) that mediate fast synaptic transmission. Here functional pentameric assembly of truncated fragments comprising the ligand-binding N-terminal ectodomains and the first three transmembrane helices, M1-M3, of both the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) alpha1 and the 5HT(3)A receptor subunits was found to be rescued by coexpressing the complementary fourth transmembrane helix, M4. Alanine scanning identified multiple aromatic residues in M1, M3 and M4 as key determinants of GlyR assembly. Homology modeling and molecular dynamics simulations revealed that these residues define an interhelical aromatic network, which we propose determines the geometry of M1-M4 tetrahelical packing such that nascent pLGIC subunits must adopt a closed fivefold symmetry. Because pLGIC ectodomains form random nonstoichiometric oligomers, proper pentameric assembly apparently depends on intersubunit interactions between extracellular domains and intrasubunit interactions between transmembrane segments.
Synaptic glycine receptors (GlyRs) are hetero-pentameric chloride channels composed of ? and ? subunits, which are activated by agonist binding at subunit interfaces. To examine the pharmacological properties of each potential agonist-binding site, we substituted residues of the GlyR ?(1) subunit by the corresponding residues of the ? subunit, as deduced from sequence alignment and homology modeling based on the recently published crystal structure of the glutamate-gated chloride channel GluCl. These exchange substitutions allowed us to reproduce the ??, ?? and ?? subunit interfaces present in synaptic heteromeric GlyRs by generating recombinant homomeric receptors. When the engineered ?(1) GlyR mutants were expressed in Xenopus oocytes, all subunit interface combinations were found to form functional agonist-binding sites as revealed by voltage clamp recording. The ??-binding site displayed the most distinct pharmacological profile towards a range of agonists and modulators tested, indicating that it might be selectively targeted to modulate the activity of synaptic GlyRs. The mutational approach described here should be generally applicable to heteromeric ligand-gated ion channels composed of homologous subunits and facilitate screening efforts aimed at targeting inter-subunit specific binding sites.
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