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Curr Opin Struct Biol. 2019 Jun 7;57:185-195. doi: 10.1016/ [Epub ahead of print]

Structural biology of glutamate receptor ion channels: towards an understanding of mechanism.

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Neurobiology Division, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. Electronic address:
Porter Neuroscience Research Center, NINDS, NIH, Bethesda MD, United States. Electronic address:


Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are tetrameric ion channels that mediate signal transmission at neuronal synapses, where they contribute centrally to the postsynaptic plasticity that underlies learning and memory. Receptor activation by l-glutamate triggers complex allosteric cascades that are transmitted through the layered and highly flexible receptor assembly culminating in opening a cation-selective pore. This process is shaped by the arrangement of the four core subunits as well as the presence of various auxiliary subunits, and is subject to regulation by an array of small molecule modulators targeting a number of sites throughout the complex. Here, we discuss recent structures of iGluR homomers and heteromers illuminating the organization and subunit arrangement of the core tetramer, co-assembled with auxiliary subunits and in complex with allosteric modulators.


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