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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2010 Jul;1(7):482.

Linking of Glycine Receptor Transmembrane Segments Three and Four Allows Assignment of Intrasubunit-Facing Residues.

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  • 1Waggoner Center for Alcohol & Addiction Research, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.


Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are pentameric ligand-gated ion channels that mediate inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain and spinal cord and are targets of alcohols and anesthetics. The transmembrane (TM) domain of GlyR subunits is composed of four α-helical segments (TM1-4), but there are conflicting data about the orientation of TM3 and TM4 and, therefore, also the proximity of residues (e.g., A288) that are important for alcohol and anesthetic effects. In the present study, we investigated the proximity of A288 in TM3 to residues in TM4 from M404 to K411. We generated eight double mutant GlyRs (A288C/M404C, A288C/F405C, A288C/Y406C, A288C/W407C, A288C/I408C, A288C/I409C, A288C/Y410C, and A288C/K411C), as well as the corresponding single mutants, and expressed them in Xenopus laevis oocytes. To measure glycine responses, we used two-electrode voltage clamp electrophysiology. We built homology models of the GlyR using structures of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) and a prokaryotic ion channel (Gloeobacter violaceus, GLIC) as templates, and asked which model best fit our experimental data. Application of the cross-linking reagent HgCl(2) in the closed state produced a leftward shift in the glycine concentration-response curves of the A288C/W407C and A288C/Y410C mutants, suggesting they are able to form cross-links. In addition, when HgCl(2) was coapplied with glycine, responses were changed in the A288C/Y406C, A288C/I409C, and A288C/Y410C double mutants, suggesting that agonist-induced rotation of TM4 allows A288C/Y406C and A288C/I409C to cross-link. These results are consistent with a model of GlyR, based on nAChR, in which A288, Y406, W407, I409, and Y410 face into a four-helical bundle.

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