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J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 7;286(40):35129-36. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.269027. Epub 2011 Aug 11.

Contributions of conserved residues at the gating interface of glycine receptors.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are chloride channels that mediate fast inhibitory neurotransmission and are members of the pentameric ligand-gated ion channel (pLGIC) family. The interface between the ligand binding domain and the transmembrane domain of pLGICs has been proposed to be crucial for channel gating and is lined by a number of charged and aromatic side chains that are highly conserved among different pLGICs. However, little is known about specific interactions between these residues that are likely to be important for gating in α1 GlyRs. Here we use the introduction of cysteine pairs and the in vivo nonsense suppression method to incorporate unnatural amino acids to probe the electrostatic and hydrophobic contributions of five highly conserved side chains near the interface, Glu-53, Phe-145, Asp-148, Phe-187, and Arg-218. Our results suggest a salt bridge between Asp-148 in loop 7 and Arg-218 in the pre-M1 domain that is crucial for channel gating. We further propose that Phe-145 and Phe-187 play important roles in stabilizing this interaction by providing a hydrophobic environment. In contrast to the equivalent residues in loop 2 of other pLGICs, the negative charge at Glu-53 α1 GlyRs is not crucial for normal channel function. These findings help decipher the GlyR gating pathway and show that distinct residue interaction patterns exist in different pLGICs. Furthermore, a salt bridge between Asp-148 and Arg-218 would provide a possible mechanistic explanation for the pathophysiologically relevant hyperekplexia, or startle disease, mutant Arg-218 → Gln.

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