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Biochem Pharmacol. 2012 Aug 15;84(4):549-57. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2012.05.017. Epub 2012 May 29.

Low nanomolar GABA effects at extrasynaptic α4β1/β3δ GABA(A) receptor subtypes indicate a different binding mode for GABA at these receptors.

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Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


Ionotropic GABA(A) receptors are a highly heterogenous population of receptors assembled from a combination of multiple subunits. The aims of this study were to characterize the potency of GABA at human recombinant δ-containing extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes using the two-electrode voltage clamp technique, and to investigate, using site-directed mutagenesis, the molecular determinants for GABA potency at α4β3δ GABA(A) receptors. α4/δ-Containing GABA(A) receptors displayed high sensitivity to GABA, with mid-nanomolar concentrations activating α4β1δ (EC₅₀=24 nM) and α4β3δ (EC₅₀=12 nM) receptors. In the majority of oocytes expressing α4β3δ subtypes, GABA produced a biphasic concentration-response curve, and activated the receptor with low and high concentrations (EC₅₀(1)=16 nM; EC₅₀(2)=1.2 μM). At α4β2δ, GABA had low micromolar activity (EC₅₀=1 μM). An analysis of 10 N-terminal singly mutated α4β3δ receptors shows that GABA interacts with amino acids different to those reported for α1β2γ2 GABA(A) receptors. Residues Y205 and R207 of the β3-subunit significantly affected GABA potency, while the residue F71 of the α4- and the residue Y97 of the β3-subunit did not significantly affect GABA potency. Mutating the residue R218 of the δ-subunit, equivalent to the GABA binding residue R207 of the β2-subunit, reduced the potency of GABA by 670-fold, suggesting a novel GABA binding site at the δ-subunit interface. Taken together, GABA may have different binding modes for extrasynaptic δ-containing GABA(A) receptors compared to their synaptic counterparts.

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