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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 30;102(35):12595-600. Epub 2005 Aug 22.

Atomic force microscopy reveals the stoichiometry and subunit arrangement of 5-HT3 receptors.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1PD, United Kingdom.


The 5-HT3 receptor is a cation-selective ligand-gated ion channel of the Cys-loop superfamily. The receptor is an important therapeutic target, with receptor antagonists being widely used as antiemetics in cancer therapy. The two known receptor subunits, A and B, form homomeric 5-HT 3A receptors and heteromeric 5-HT 3A/B receptors. The heteromeric receptor has the higher single-channel conductance and more closely mimics the properties of the native receptor. We have used atomic force microscopy to study the architecture of 5-HT 3A and 5-HT 3A/B receptors. We engineered different epitope tags onto the A- and B-subunits and imaged receptors that were doubly liganded by anti-epitope antibodies. We found that, for the 5-HT 3A/B receptor, the distribution of angles between antibodies against the A-subunit had a single peak at approximately 144 degrees , whereas the distribution for antibodies against the B-subunit had two peaks at approximately 72 degrees and 144 degrees . Our results indicate that the subunit stoichiometry is 2A:3B and that the subunit arrangement around the receptor rosette is B-B-A-B-A. This arrangement may account for the difference between the agonist Hill coefficients and the single-channel conductances for the two types of receptor.

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