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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Mar 1;375(1):31-49.

Homology models of mu-opioid receptor with organic and inorganic cations at conserved aspartates in the second and third transmembrane domains.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8N 3Z5, Canada.


Metal ions affect ligand binding to G-protein-coupled receptors by as yet unknown mechanisms. In particular, Na(+) increases the affinity for antagonists but decreases it for agonists. We had modeled the mu-opioid receptor (muR) based on the low-resolution structure of rhodopsin by G. F. X. Schertler, C. Villa, and R. Henderson (1993, Nature 362, 770-772) and proposed that metal ions may be directly involved in the binding of ligands and receptor activation (B. S. Zhorov and V. S. Ananthanarayanan, 1998, J. Biomol. Struct. Dyn. 15, 631-637). Developing this concept further, we present here homology models of muR using as templates the structure of rhodopsin elaborated by I. D. Pogozheva, A. L. Lomize, and H. I. Mosberg (1997, Biophys. J. 70, 1963-1985) and J. M. Baldwin, G. F. X. Schertler, and V. M. Unger (1997, J. Mol. Biol., 272, 144-164). Using the Monte Carlo minimization (MCM) method, we docked the Na(+)-bound forms of muR ligands: naloxone, bremazocine, and carfentanyl. The resultant low-energy complexes showed that the two positive charges in the protonated metal-bound ligands interact with the two negative charges at Asp(3.32) and Asp(2.50) (for notations, see J. A. Ballesteros and H. Weinstein, 1995, Methods Neurosci. 25, 366-426). MCM computation on morphine docked inside the model of muR by I. D. Pogozheva, A. L. Lomize, and H. I. Mosberg (1998, Biophys. J. 75, 612-634) yielded two binding modes with the ligand's ammonium group salt-bridged either to Asp(3.32) (generally regarded as the ligand recognition site) or to Asp(2.50). The latter is the presumed site for Na(+) ion, which is known to modulate ligand binding. Assuming that in the low-dielectric transmembrane region of muR, organic and inorganic cations would compete for Asp(3.32) and Asp(2.50), we propose that ligand binding, as visualized in the above models, would first displace Na(+) from Asp(3.32). A subsequent progress of the ligand toward Asp(2.50) would result in either the retention of Na(+) at Asp(2.50) in the case of antagonists or the displacement of Na(+) from Asp(2.50) in the case of agonists. The displaced Na(+) would move toward the salt-bridged Asp(3.49)-Arg(3.50) and disengage the salt bridge. This, in turn, would result in conformational changes at the cytoplasmic face of the receptor that facilitate the interaction with the G-protein.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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