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Eur J Biochem. 2000 Jan;267(1):110-20.

Structure-activity relationship and site of binding of polyamine derivatives at the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

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  • 1Institut für Biochemie, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.


Several wasp venoms contain philanthotoxins (PhTXs), natural polyamine amides, which act as noncompetitive inhibitors (NCIs) on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). Effects of varying the structure of PhTXs and poly(methylene tetramine)s on the binding affinity have been investigated. Using the fluorescent NCI ethidium in a displacement assay Kapp values of these compounds have been determined. We found that an increase in size of the PhTX's hydrophobic head group significantly increased the binding affinity, while inserting positive charge almost completely destroyed it. Elongating the PhTX polyamine chain by introducing an additional aminomethylene group decreased the binding affinity, whereas a terminal lysine improved it. In general, poly(methylene tetramine)s showed higher binding affinities than PhTX analogues. The stoichiometry of PhTX binding was determined to be two PhTX molecules per receptor monomer. PhTXs appeared to bind to a single class of nonallosterically interacting binding sites and bound PhTX was found to be completely displaced by well-characterized luminal NCIs. To elucidate the site of PhTX binding, a photolabile, radioactive PhTX derivative was photocross-linked to the nAChR in its closed channel conformation resulting in labeling yields for the two alpha and the beta, gamma and delta subunits of 10.4, 11.1, 4.0 and 7.4%, respectively. Based on these findings we suggest that PhTXs and poly(methylene tetramine)s enter the receptor's ionic channel from the extracellular side. The hydrophobic head groups most likely bind to the high-affinity NCI site, while the positively charged polyamine chains presumably interact with the negatively charged selectivity filter located deep in the channel lumen.

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