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Mol Pharmacol. 1996 Aug;50(2):402-6.

A single amino acid determines differences in ethanol actions on strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80220, USA.


Effects of ethanol on strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors were studied in Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing alpha 1 wild-type, alpha 2, or mutant alpha 1(A52S) homomeric glycine receptors. This alpha 1(A52S) mutant, in which a serine residue substitutes for alanine at amino acid 52, is responsible for the spasmodic phenotype in mice and alters the ability of glycine to activate the receptor. Pharmacologically relevant concentrations of ethanol (10-200 mM) reversibly potentiated the glycine receptor function in all receptors. Ethanol potentiation depended on the glycine concentration used, with decreased potentiation observed at higher glycine concentrations. Homomeric alpha 1 glycine receptors were more sensitive to the effects of ethanol than were alpha 2 or the mutant alpha 1(A52S) receptors. No differences were found in ethanol sensitivity between alpha 2 and the mutant alpha 1(A52S) receptors. The alpha 2 subunit has a threonine residue, a conservative substitution for serine, at amino acid 52. The general anesthetic propofol was also tested in homomeric alpha 1, alpha 2, or the mutant alpha 1(A52S) receptors. Propofol, at unaesthetic concentrations (1-5 microM), reversibly potentiated the glycine receptor function in a concentration-dependent manner and to an equal extent in the three subunits tested. These data suggest that the mutation of an alanine to serine at amino acid 52 of the alpha subunit is responsible for the difference in ethanol sensitivity seen in homomeric receptors composed of alpha 1 and alpha 2 subunits.

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