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Front Mol Biosci January 1, 2021; 8 644720.

A Single Mutation in the Outer Lipid-Facing Helix of a Pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channel Affects Channel Function Through a Radially-Propagating Mechanism.

Crnjar A , Mesoy SM , Lummis SCR , Molteni C .

Pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs) mediate fast synaptic transmission and are crucial drug targets. Their gating mechanism is triggered by ligand binding in the extracellular domain that culminates in the opening of a hydrophobic gate in the transmembrane domain. This domain is made of four α-helices (M1 to M4). Recently the outer lipid-facing helix (M4) has been shown to be key to receptor function, however its role in channel opening is still poorly understood. It could act through its neighboring helices (M1/M3), or via the M4 tip interacting with the pivotal Cys-loop in the extracellular domain. Mutation of a single M4 tyrosine (Y441) to alanine renders one pLGIC-the 5-HT3A receptor-unable to function despite robust ligand binding. Using Y441A as a proxy for M4 function, we here predict likely paths of Y441 action using molecular dynamics, and test these predictions with functional assays of mutant receptors in HEK cells and Xenopus oocytes using fluorescent membrane potential sensitive dye and two-electrode voltage clamp respectively. We show that Y441 does not act via the M4 tip or Cys-loop, but instead connects radially through M1 to a residue near the ion channel hydrophobic gate on the pore-lining helix M2. This demonstrates the active role of the M4 helix in channel opening.

PubMed ID: 33996899
Article link: Front Mol Biosci

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis

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References [+] :
Alcaino, Role of the Cys Loop and Transmembrane Domain in the Allosteric Modulation of α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. 2017, Pubmed, Xenbase