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J Biol Chem. 2002 Jan 25;277(4):2931-7. Epub 2001 Nov 15.

GABA(A) receptor beta 2 Tyr97 and Leu99 line the GABA-binding site. Insights into mechanisms of agonist and antagonist actions.

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Department of Physiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


The identification of residues that line neurotransmitter-binding sites and catalyze allosteric transitions that result in channel gating is crucial for understanding ligand-gated ion channel function. In this study, we used the substituted cysteine accessibility method and two-electrode voltage clamp to identify novel gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-binding site residues and to elucidate the secondary structure of the Trp(92)-Asp(101) region of the beta(2) subunit. Each residue was mutated individually to cysteine and expressed with wild-type alpha(1) subunits in Xenopus oocytes. GABA-gated currents (I(GABA)) were measured before and after exposure to the sulfhydryl reagent, N-biotinylaminoethyl methanethiosulfonate (MTS). V93C, D95C, Y97C, and L99C are accessible to derivatization. This pattern of accessibility is consistent with beta(2)Val(93)-Leu(99) adopting a beta-strand conformation. Both GABA and SR95531 protect Y97C and L99C from modification, indicating that these two residues line the GABA-binding site. In D95C-containing receptors, application of MTS in the presence of SR95531 causes a greater effect on I(GABA) than MTS alone, suggesting that binding of a competitive antagonist can cause movements in the binding site. In addition, we present evidence that beta(2)L99C homomers form spontaneously open channels. Thus, mutation of a binding site residue can alter channel gating, which implies that Leu(99) may be important for coupling agonist binding to channel gating.

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