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J Physiol. 2000 May 1;524 Pt 3:649-76.

Structural domains of the human GABAA receptor 3 subunit involved in the actions of pentobarbital.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesiology Research Unit, Washington University School of Medicine, CB 8054, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, St Louis MO, 63110, USA. ruggero@routbort.neuro.duke.edu


This study was conducted to search for the residues of the beta3 subunit which affect pentobarbital action on the gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptor. Three chimeras were constructed by joining the GABAA receptor beta3 subunit to the rho1 subunit. For each chimera, the N-terminal sequence was derived from the beta3 subunit and the C-terminal sequence from the rho1 subunit, with junctions located between the membrane-spanning regions M2 and M3, in the middle of M2, or in M1, respectively. In receptors obtained by the coexpression of alpha1 with the chimeric subunits, in contrast with those obtained by the coexpression of alpha1 and beta3, pentobarbital exhibited lower potentiation of GABA-evoked responses, and in the direct gating of Cl- currents, an increase in the EC50 together with a marked decrease in the relative maximal efficacy compared with that of GABA. Estimates of the channel opening probability through variance analysis and single-channel recordings of one chimeric subunit showed that the reduced relative efficacy for gating largely resulted from an increase in gating by GABA, with little change in efficacy of pentobarbital. A fit of the time course of the response by the predictions of a class of reaction schemes is consistent with the conclusion that the change in the concentration dependence of activation by pentobarbital is due to a change in pentobarbital affinity for the receptor. Therefore, the data suggest that residues of the beta3 subunit involved in pentobarbital binding to GABAA receptors are located downstream from the middle of the M2 region.

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