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Mol Pharmacol. 2018 Nov;94(5):1298-1309. doi: 10.1124/mol.118.112490. Epub 2018 Sep 13.

Utility of an "Allosteric Site-Impaired" M2 Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor as a Novel Construct for Validating Mechanisms of Action of Synthetic and Putative Endogenous Allosteric Modulators.

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Drug Discovery Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.
Drug Discovery Biology, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia


Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) are exemplar models for understanding G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) allostery, possessing a "common" allosteric site in an extracellular vestibule (ECV) for synthetic modulators including gallamine, strychnine, and brucine. In addition, there is intriguing evidence of endogenous peptides/proteins that may target this region at the M2 mAChR. A common feature of synthetic and endogenous M2 mAChR negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) is their cationic nature. Using a structure-based approach, we previously designed a mutant M2 mAChR (N410K+T423K) to specifically abrogate binding of ECV cationic modulators (Dror et al., 2013). Herein, we used this "allosteric site-impaired" receptor to investigate allosteric interactions of synthetic modulators as well as basic peptides (poly-l-arginine, endogenously produced protamine, and major basic protein). Using [3H]N-methylscopolamine equilibrium and kinetic binding and functional assays of guanosine 5'-O-[γ-thio]triphosphate [35S] binding and extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 phosphorylation, we found modest effects of the mutations on potencies of orthosteric antagonists and an increase in the affinity of the cognate agonist, acetylcholine, likely reflecting the effect of the mutations on the access/egress of these ligands into the orthosteric pocket. More importantly, we noted a significant abrogation in affinity for all synthetic or peptidic modulators at the mutant mAChR, validating their allosteric nature. Collectively, these findings provide evidence for a hitherto-unappreciated role of endogenous cationic peptides interacting allosterically at the M2 mAChR and identify the allosteric site-impaired GPCR as a tool for validating NAM activity as well as a potential candidate for future chemogenetic strategies to understand the physiology of endogenous allosteric substances.


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