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Br J Pharmacol. 1999 May;127(2):377-82.

Subunit mutations affect ethanol actions on GABA(A) receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes.

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Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin, 78712-1095, USA.


1. Mutations of specific amino acids were introduced in transmembrane domains (TM) of GABA(A) receptor alpha2, beta1 and gamma2L subunits. The effects of these mutations on the action of ethanol were studied using the Xenopus oocyte expression system and two-electrode voltage-clamp recording techniques. 2. Mutant alpha2 subunits containing S270I (TM2) or A291W (TM3) made the receptor more sensitive to GABA, as compared to wild-type alpha2beta1gamma2L receptor. The mutation S265I (TM2) of beta1 and S280I (TM2) or S30IW (TM3) in gamma2L subunits did not alter apparent affinity of the receptor for GABA. M286W (TM3) in the beta1 subunit resulted in a receptor that was tonically open. 3. Using an EC5 concentration of GABA, the function of the wild-type receptor with alpha2beta1gamma2L subunits was potentiated by ethanol (50-200 mM). The mutations in TM2 or TM3 of the alpha2 subunit diminished the potentiation by ethanol. The action of ethanol was also eliminated with a mutation in the TM2 site of the beta1 subunit. Ethanol produced significant inhibition of GABA responses in receptors containing the combination of alpha2 and beta1 TM2 mutants with a wild-type gamma2L subunit. A small but significant reduction in the potentiation by ethanol was observed with gamma2L TM2 and/or TM3 mutants. 4. From these results, we suggest that in heteromeric GABA(A) receptors composed of the alpha, beta and gamma subunits, ethanol may bind in a cavity formed by TM2 and TM3, and that binding to the alpha or beta subunit may be more critical than the gamma subunit.

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