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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(4):e1002473. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002473. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

Ligand-dependent conformations and dynamics of the serotonin 5-HT(2A) receptor determine its activation and membrane-driven oligomerization properties.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York, United States of America.


From computational simulations of a serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT(2A)R) model complexed with pharmacologically and structurally diverse ligands we identify different conformational states and dynamics adopted by the receptor bound to the full agonist 5-HT, the partial agonist LSD, and the inverse agonist Ketanserin. The results from the unbiased all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations show that the three ligands affect differently the known GPCR activation elements including the toggle switch at W6.48, the changes in the ionic lock between E6.30 and R3.50 of the DRY motif in TM3, and the dynamics of the NPxxY motif in TM7. The computational results uncover a sequence of steps connecting these experimentally-identified elements of GPCR activation. The differences among the properties of the receptor molecule interacting with the ligands correlate with their distinct pharmacological properties. Combining these results with quantitative analysis of membrane deformation obtained with our new method (Mondal et al, Biophysical Journal 2011), we show that distinct conformational rearrangements produced by the three ligands also elicit different responses in the surrounding membrane. The differential reorganization of the receptor environment is reflected in (i)-the involvement of cholesterol in the activation of the 5-HT(2A)R, and (ii)-different extents and patterns of membrane deformations. These findings are discussed in the context of their likely functional consequences and a predicted mechanism of ligand-specific GPCR oligomerization.

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