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Biochemistry. 2000 Nov 14;39(45):13904-15.

The conserved cysteine 7.38 residue is differentially accessible in the binding-site crevices of the mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors.

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Department of Pharmacology and Center for Substance Abuse Research, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA.


Binding pockets of the opioid receptors are presumably formed among the transmembrane domains (TMDs) and are accessible from the extracellular medium. In this study, we determined the sensitivity of binding of [(3)H]diprenorphine, an antagonist, to mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors to charged methanethiosulfonate (MTS) derivatives and identified the cysteine residues within the TMDs that conferred the sensitivity. Incubation of the mu opioid receptor expressed in HEK293 cells with MTS ethylammonium (MTSEA), MTS ethyltrimethylammonium (MTSET), or MTS ethylsulfonate (MTSES) inhibited [(3)H]diprenorphine binding with the potency order of MTSEA > MTSET > MTSES. Pretreatment of mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors with MTSEA dose-dependently inhibited [(3)H]diprenorphine binding with MTSEA sensitivity in the order of kappa > mu >> delta. The effects of MTSEA occurred rapidly, reaching the maximal inhibition in 10 min. (-)-Naloxone, but not (+)-naloxone, prevented the MTSEA effect, demonstrating that the reaction occurs within or in the vicinity of the binding pockets. Each cysteine residue in the TMDs of the three receptors was mutated singly, and the effects of MTSEA treatment were examined. The mutants had similar affinities for [(3)H]diprenorphine, and C7. 38(321)S, C7.38(303)S, and C7.38(315)S mutations rendered mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors less sensitive to the effect of MTSEA, respectively. These results indicate that the conserved Cys7.38 is differentially accessible in the binding-site crevice of these receptors. The second extracellular loop of the kappa receptor, which contains several acidic residues, appears to play a role, albeit small, in its higher sensitivity to MTSEA, whereas the negative charge of Glu6.58(297) did not. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report to show that a conserved residue among highly homologous G protein-coupled receptors is differentially accessible in the binding-site crevice. In addition, this represents the first successful generation of MTSEA-insensitive mutants of mu, delta, and kappa opioid receptors, which will allow determination of residues accessible in the binding-site crevices of these receptors by the substituted cysteine accessibility method.

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