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Mol Pharmacol. 2007 Jan;71(1):38-46. Epub 2006 Sep 29.

Structural determinants for high-affinity zolpidem binding to GABA-A receptors.

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Department of Physiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 601 Science Dr, Madison, WI 53711, USA.


The imidazopyridine zolpidem (Ambien) is one of the most commonly prescribed sleep aids in the United States (Rush, 1998). Similar to classic benzodiazepines (BZDs), zolpidem binds at the extracellular N-terminal alpha/gamma subunit interface of the GABA-A receptor (GABAR). However, zolpidem differs significantly from classic BZDs in chemical structure and neuropharmacological properties. Thus, classic BZDs and zolpidem are likely to have different requirements for high-affinity binding to GABARs. To date, three residues--gamma2Met57, gamma2Phe77, and gamma2Met130--have been identified as necessary for high-affinity zolpidem binding (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 94:8824-8829, 1997; Mol Pharmacol 52:874-881, 1997). In this study, we used radioligand binding techniques, gamma2/alpha1 chimeric subunits (chi), site-directed mutagenesis, and molecular modeling to identify additional gamma2 subunit residues important for high-affinity zolpidem binding. Whereas alpha1beta2chi receptors containing only the first 161 amino-terminal residues of the gamma2 subunit bind the classic BZD flunitrazepam with wild-type affinity, zolpidem affinity is decreased approximately 8-fold. By incrementally restoring gamma2 subunit sequence, we identified a seven-amino acid stretch in the gamma2 subunit loop F region (amino acids 186-192) that is required to confer high-affinity zolpidem binding to GABARs. When mapped to a homology model, these seven amino acids make up part of loop F located at the alpha/gamma interface. Based on in silico zolpidem docking, three residues within loop F, gamma2Glu189, gamma2Thr193, and gamma2Arg194, emerge as being important for stabilizing zolpidem in the BZD binding pocket and probably interact with other loop F residues to maintain the structural integrity of the BZD binding site.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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