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J Biol Chem. 2011 Nov 18;286(46):40205-18. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.268839. Epub 2011 Sep 19.

Interaction of the M4 segment with other transmembrane segments is required for surface expression of mammalian α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors.

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  • 1Graduate Program in Neuroscience, NS073382 , USA.


Ionotropic glutamate receptors (GluRs) are ligand-gated ion channels with a modular structure. The ion channel itself shares structural similarity, albeit an inverted membrane topology, with P-loop channels. Like P-loop channels, prokaryotic GluR subunits (e.g. GluR0) have two transmembrane segments. In contrast, eukaryotic GluRs have an additional transmembrane segment (M4), located C-terminal to the ion channel core. However, the structural/functional significance of this additional transmembrane segment is poorly defined. Although topologically similar to GluR0, mammalian AMPA receptor (GluA1) subunits lacking the M4 segment do not display surface expression. This lack of expression is not due to the M4 segment serving as an anchor to the ligand-binding domain because insertion of an artificial polyleucine transmembrane segment does not rescue surface expression. Specific interactions between M4 and the ligand-binding domain are also unlikely because insertion of polyglycines into the linker connecting them has no deleterious effects on function or surface expression. However, tryptophan and cysteine scanning mutagenesis of the M4 segment, as well as recovery of function in the polyleucine background, defined a unique face of the M4 helix that is required for GluR surface expression. In the AMPA receptor structure, this face forms intersubunit contacts with the transmembrane helices of the ion channel core (M1 and M3) from another subunit within the homotetramer. Thus, our experiments show that a highly specific interaction of the M4 segment with an adjacent subunit is required for surface expression of AMPA receptors. This interaction may represent a mechanism for regulating AMPA receptor biogenesis.

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