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Nat Chem Biol. 2017 Feb;13(2):153-160. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.2246. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

Gephyrin-binding peptides visualize postsynaptic sites and modulate neurotransmission.

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Center for Biopharmaceuticals, Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Molecular Neurogenetics, Center for Molecular Neurobiology, ZMNH, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.
Department of Biotechnology and Biophysics, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


γ-Aminobutyric acid type A and glycine receptors are the major mediators of fast synaptic inhibition in the human central nervous system and are established drug targets. However, all drugs targeting these receptors bind to the extracellular ligand-binding domain of the receptors, which inherently is associated with perturbation of the basic physiological action. Here we pursue a fundamentally different approach, by instead targeting the intracellular receptor-gephyrin interaction. First, we defined the gephyrin peptide-binding consensus sequence, which facilitated the development of gephyrin super-binding peptides and later effective affinity probes for the isolation of native gephyrin. Next, we demonstrated that fluorescent super-binding peptides could be used to directly visualize inhibitory postsynaptic sites for the first time in conventional and super-resolution microscopy. Finally, we demonstrate that the gephyrin super-binding peptides act as acute intracellular modulators of fast synaptic inhibition by modulating receptor clustering, thus being conceptually novel modulators of inhibitory neurotransmission.

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