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J Physiol. 1999 Feb 15;515 ( Pt 1):3-18.

Complementary regulation of anaesthetic activation of human (alpha6beta3gamma2L) and Drosophila (RDL) GABA receptors by a single amino acid residue.

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Neurosciences Institute, Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee University, Dundee DD1 9SY, UK.


1. The influence of a transmembrane (TM2) amino acid located at a homologous position in human beta1 (S290) and beta3 (N289) GABAA receptor subunits and the RDL GABA receptor of Drosophila (M314) upon allosteric regulation by general anaesthetics has been investigated. 2. GABA-evoked currents mediated by human wild-type (WT) alpha6beta3gamma2L or WT RDL GABA receptors expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes were augmented by propofol or pentobarbitone. High concentrations of either anaesthetic directly activated alpha6beta3gamma2L, but not RDL, receptors. 3. GABA-evoked currents mediated by human mutant GABAA receptors expressing the RDL methionine residue (i.e. alpha6beta3N289Mgamma2L) were potentiated by propofol or pentobarbitone with approximately 2-fold reduced potency and, in the case of propofol, reduced maximal effect. Conspicuously, the mutant receptor was refractory to activation by either propofol or pentobarbitone. 4. Incorporation of the homologous GABAA beta1-subunit residue in the RDL receptor (i.e. RDLM314S) increased the potency, but not the maximal effect, of GABA potentiation by either propofol or pentobarbitone. Strikingly, either anaesthetic now activated the receptor, an effect confirmed for propofol utilizing expression of WT or mutant RDL subunits in Schnieder S2 cells. At RDL receptors expressing the homologous beta3-subunit residue (i.e. RDLM314N) the actions of propofol were similarly affected, whereas those of pentobarbitone were unaltered. 5. The results indicate that the identity of a homologous amino acid affects, in a complementary manner, the direct activation of human (alpha6beta3gamma2L) and RDL GABA receptors by structurally distinct general anaesthetics. Whether the crucial residue acts as a regulator of signal transduction or as a component of an anaesthetic binding site per se is discussed.

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