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Nature. 1991 Jul 4;352(6330):64-7.

Extracellular domains mediating epsilon subunit interactions of muscle acetylcholine receptor.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0444.


Ligand-gated ion channels, a major class of cell-surface proteins, have a pseudosymmetric structure with five highly homologous subunits arranged around a central ion pore. The correct assembly of each channel, whose subunit composition varies with cell type and stage of development, requires specific recognition between the subunits. Assembly of the pentameric form of the acetylcholine receptor from adult muscle (AChR; alpha 2 beta epsilon delta) proceeds by a stepwise pathway starting with the formation of the heterodimers, alpha epsilon and alpha delta. The heterodimers than associate with the beta subunit and with each other to form the complete receptor. We have now determined which parts of the subunits mediate the interactions during assembly of the adult form of the receptor from mouse muscle by using a chimaeric subunit in which the N-terminal and C-terminal extracellular domains are derived from the epsilon subunit with the remainder from the beta subunit. The epsilon and beta subunits were chosen because the epsilon subunit forms a heterodimer with the alpha subunit in the pathway for assembly of the receptor, whereas the beta subunit does not. The epsilon beta chimera can substitute for the epsilon but not the beta subunit in the oligomeric receptor, indicating that the alpha subunit specifically recognizes an extracellular domain of the epsilon subunit.

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