Molecular targets and mechanisms for ethanol action in glycine receptors.
ABSTRACT: Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are recognized as the primary mediators of neuronal inhibition in the spinal cord, brain stem and higher brain regions known to be sensitive to ethanol. Building evidence supports the notion that ethanol acting on GlyRs causes at least a subset of its behavioral effects and may be involved in modulating ethanol intake. For over two decades, GlyRs have been studied at the molecular level as targets for ethanol action. Despite the advances in understanding the effects of ethanol in vivo and in vitro, the precise molecular sites and mechanisms of action for ethanol in ligand-gated ion channels in general, and in GlyRs specifically, are just now starting to become understood. The present review focuses on advances in our knowledge produced by using molecular biology, pressure antagonism, electrophysiology and molecular modeling strategies over the last two decades to probe, identify and model the initial molecular sites and mechanisms of ethanol action in GlyRs. The molecular targets on the GlyR are covered on a global perspective, which includes the intracellular, transmembrane and extracellular domains. The latter has received increasing attention in recent years. Recent molecular models of the sites of ethanol action in GlyRs and their implications to our understanding of possible mechanism of ethanol action and novel targets for drug development in GlyRs are discussed.
Project description:Ethanol is a widely used drug, yet an understanding of its sites and mechanisms of action remains incomplete. Among the protein targets of ethanol are glycine receptors (GlyRs), which are potentiated by millimolar concentrations of ethanol. In addition, zinc ions also modulate GlyR function, and recent evidence suggests that physiologic concentrations of zinc enhance ethanol potentiation of GlyRs. Here, we first built a homology model of a zinc-bound GlyR using the D80 position as a coordination site for a zinc ion. Next, we investigated in vitro the effects of zinc on ethanol action at recombinant wild-type (WT) and mutant α1 GlyRs containing the D80A substitution, which eliminates zinc potentiation. At D80A GlyRs, the effects of 50 and 200 mM ethanol were reduced as compared with WT receptors. Also, in contrast to what was seen with WT GlyRs, neither adding nor chelating zinc changed the magnitude of ethanol enhancement of mutant D80A receptors. Next, we evaluated the in vivo effects of the D80A substitution by using heterozygous Glra1(D80A) knock-in (KI) mice. The KI mice showed decreased ethanol consumption and preference, and they displayed increased startle responses compared with their WT littermates. Other behavioral tests, including ethanol-induced motor incoordination and strychnine-induced convulsions, revealed no differences between the KI and WT mice. Together, our findings indicate that zinc is critical in determining the effects of ethanol at GlyRs and suggest that zinc binding at the D80 position may be important for mediating some of the behavioral effects of ethanol action at GlyRs.
Project description:Strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors (GlyRs) are expressed throughout the brain and spinal cord and are among the strongly supported protein targets of alcohol. This is based largely on studies of the ?1-subunit; however, ?2- and ?3-GlyR subunits are as or more abundantly expressed than ?1-GlyRs in multiple forebrain brain areas considered to be important for alcohol-related behaviors, and uniquely some ?3-GlyRs undergo RNA editing. Nanomolar and low micromolar concentrations of zinc ions potentiate GlyR function, and in addition to zinc's effects on glycine-activated currents, we have recently shown that physiological concentrations of zinc also enhance the magnitude of ethanol (EtOH)'s effects on ?1-GlyRs.Using 2-electrode voltage-clamp electrophysiology in oocytes expressing either ?2- or ?3-GlyRs, we first tested the hypothesis that the effects of EtOH on ?2- and ?3-GlyRs would be zinc dependent, as we have previously reported for ?1-GlyRs. Next, we constructed an ?3P185L-mutant GlyR to test whether RNA-edited and unedited GlyRs contain differences in EtOH sensitivity. Last, we built a homology model of the ?3-GlyR subunit.The effects of EtOH (20 to 200 mM) on both subunits were greater in the presence than in the absence of 500 nM added zinc. The ?3P185L-mutation that corresponds to RNA editing increased sensitivity to glycine and decreased sensitivity to EtOH.Our findings provide further evidence that zinc is important for determining the magnitude of EtOH's effects at GlyRs and suggest that by better understanding zinc/EtOH interactions at GlyRs, we may better understand the sites and mechanisms of EtOH action.
Project description:It is now believed that the allosteric modulation produced by ethanol in glycine receptors (GlyRs) depends on alcohol binding to discrete sites within the protein structure. Thus, the differential ethanol sensitivity of diverse GlyR isoforms and mutants was explained by the presence of specific residues in putative alcohol pockets. Here, we demonstrate that ethanol sensitivity in two ligand-gated ion receptor members, the GlyR adult ?(1) and embryonic ?(2) subunits, can be modified through selective mutations that rescued or impaired G?? modulation. Even though both isoforms were able to physically interact with G??, only the ?(1) GlyR was functionally modulated by G?? and pharmacological ethanol concentrations. Remarkably, the simultaneous switching of two transmembrane and a single extracellular residue in ?(2) GlyRs was enough to generate GlyRs modulated by G?? and low ethanol concentrations. Interestingly, although we found that these TM residues were different to those in the alcohol binding site, the extracellular residue was recently implicated in conformational changes important to generate a pre-open-activated state that precedes ion channel gating. Thus, these results support the idea that the differential ethanol sensitivity of these two GlyR isoforms rests on conformational changes in transmembrane and extracellular residues within the ion channel structure rather than in differences in alcohol binding pockets. Our results describe the molecular basis for the differential ethanol sensitivity of two ligand-gated ion receptor members based on selective G?? modulation and provide a new mechanistic framework for allosteric modulations of abuse drugs.
Project description:Glycine receptors (GlyRs) are inhibitory ligand-gated ion channels. Ethanol potentiates glycine activation of the GlyR, and putative binding sites for alcohol are located in the transmembrane (TM) domains between and within subunits. To alter alcohol sensitivity of GlyR, we introduced two mutations in the GlyR ?1 subunit, M287L (TM3) and Q266I (TM2). After expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes, both mutants showed a reduction in glycine sensitivity and glycine-induced maximal currents. Activation by taurine, another endogenous agonist, was almost abolished in the M287L GlyR. The ethanol potentiation of glycine currents was reduced in the M287L GlyR and eliminated in Q266I. Physiological levels of zinc (100 nM) potentiate glycine responses in wild-type GlyR and also enhance the ethanol potentiation of glycine responses. Although zinc potentiation of glycine responses was unchanged in both mutants, zinc enhancement of ethanol potentiation of glycine responses was absent in M287L GlyRs. The Q266I mutation decreased conductance but increased mean open time (effects not seen in M287L). Two lines of knockin mice bearing these mutations were developed. Survival of homozygous knockin mice was impaired, probably as a consequence of impaired glycinergic transmission. Glycine showed a decreased capacity for displacing strychnine binding in heterozygous knockin mice. Electrophysiology in isolated neurons of brain stem showed decreased glycine-mediated currents and decreased ethanol potentiation in homozygous knockin mice. Molecular models of the wild-type and mutant GlyRs show a smaller water-filled cavity within the TM domains of the Q266I ?1 subunit. The behavioral characterization of these knockin mice is presented in a companion article (J Pharmacol Exp Ther 340:317-329, 2012).
Project description:Previous studies have shown that the effect of ethanol onglycine receptors (GlyRs) containing the a1 subunit is affected by interaction with heterotrimeric G proteins (G??). GlyRs containing the ?3 subunit are involved in inflammatory pain sensitization and rhythmic breathing and have received much recent attention. For example, it is unknown whether ethanol affects the function of this important GlyR subtype. Electrophysiologic experiments showed that GlyR ?3 subunits were not potentiated by pharmacologic concentrations of ethanol or by G??. Thus, we studied GlyR ?1–?3 chimeras and mutants to determine the molecular properties that confer ethanol insensitivity. Mutation of corresponding glycine 254 in transmembrane domain 2 (TM2) found in a1 in the ?3(A254G) –?1 chimera induced a glycine-evoked current that displayed potentiation during application of ethanol (46 ± 5%, 100 mM) and G?? activation (80 ± 17%). Interestingly,insertion of the intracellular ?3L splice cassette into GlyR ?1 abolished the enhancement of the glycine-activated current by ethanol (5 ± 6%) and activation by G?? (21 6 7%). In corporation of the GlyR ?1 C terminus into the ethanol-resistant ?3S(A254G) mutant produced a construct that displayed potentiation of the glycine-activated current with 100 mM ethanol (40 ± 6%)together with a current enhancement after G protein activation (68 ± 25%). Taken together, these data demonstrate that GlyR?3 subunits are not modulated by ethanol. Residue A254 in TM2, the ?3L splice cassette, and the C-terminal domain of ?3GlyRs are determinants for low ethanol sensitivity and form the molecular basis of subtype-selective modulation of GlyRs by alcohol.
Project description:The α1-subunit containing glycine receptors (GlyRs) is potentiated by ethanol, in part, by intracellular Gβγ actions. Previous studies have suggested that molecular requirements in the large intracellular domain are involved; however, the lack of structural data about this region has made it difficult to describe a detailed mechanism. Using circular dichroism and molecular modeling, we generated a full model of the α1-GlyR, which includes the large intracellular domain and provides new information on structural requirements for allosteric modulation by ethanol and Gβγ. The data strongly suggest the existence of an α-helical conformation in the regions near transmembrane (TM)-3 and TM4 of the large intracellular domain. The secondary structure in the N-terminal region of the large intracellular domain near TM3 appeared critical for ethanol action, and this was tested using the homologous domain of the γ2-subunit of the GABAA receptor predicted to have little helical conformation. This region of γ2 was able to bind Gβγ and form a functional channel when combined with α1-GlyR, but it was not sensitive to ethanol. Mutations in the N- and C-terminal regions introduced to replace corresponding amino acids of the α1-GlyR sequence restored the ability to be modulated by ethanol and Gβγ. Recovery of the sensitivity to ethanol was associated with the existence of a helical conformation similar to α1-GlyR, thus being an essential secondary structural requirement for GlyR modulation by ethanol and G protein.
Project description:Alcohol abuse is a significant medical and social problem. Several neurotransmitter systems are implicated in ethanol's actions, with certain receptors and ion channels emerging as putative targets. The dorsal raphe (DR) nucleus is associated with the behavioral actions of alcohol, but ethanol actions on these neurons are not well understood. Here, using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology we characterize DR inhibitory transmission and its sensitivity to ethanol. DR neurons exhibit inhibitory 'phasic' post-synaptic currents mediated primarily by synaptic GABAA receptors (GABAAR) and, to a lesser extent, by synaptic glycine receptors (GlyR). In addition to such phasic transmission mediated by the vesicular release of neurotransmitter, the activity of certain neurons may be governed by a 'tonic' conductance resulting from ambient GABA activating extrasynaptic GABAARs. However, for DR neurons extrasynaptic GABAARs exert only a limited influence. By contrast, we report that unusually the GlyR antagonist strychnine reveals a large tonic conductance mediated by extrasynaptic GlyRs, which dominates DR inhibition. In agreement, for DR neurons strychnine increases their input resistance, induces membrane depolarization, and consequently augments their excitability. Importantly, this glycinergic conductance is greatly enhanced in a strychnine-sensitive fashion, by behaviorally relevant ethanol concentrations, by drugs used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, and by taurine, an ingredient of certain 'energy drinks' often imbibed with ethanol. These findings identify extrasynaptic GlyRs as critical regulators of DR excitability and a novel molecular target for ethanol.
Project description:The present study tests the hypothesis that the structure of extracellular domain Loop 2 can markedly affect ethanol sensitivity in glycine receptors (GlyRs) and gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABA(A)Rs). To test this, we mutated Loop 2 in the alpha1 subunit of GlyRs and in the gamma subunit of alpha1beta2gamma2GABA(A)Rs and measured the sensitivity of wild type and mutant receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes to agonist, ethanol, and other agents using two-electrode voltage clamp. Replacing Loop 2 of alpha1GlyR subunits with Loop 2 from the deltaGABA(A)R (deltaL2), but not the gammaGABA(A)R subunit, reduced ethanol threshold and increased the degree of ethanol potentiation without altering general receptor function. Similarly, replacing Loop 2 of the gamma subunit of GABA(A)Rs with deltaL2 shifted the ethanol threshold from 50 mm in WT to 1 mm in the GABA(A) gamma-deltaL2 mutant. These findings indicate that the structure of Loop 2 can profoundly affect ethanol sensitivity in GlyRs and GABA(A)Rs. The deltaL2 mutations did not affect GlyR or GABA(A)R sensitivity, respectively, to Zn(2+) or diazepam, which suggests that these deltaL2-induced changes in ethanol sensitivity do not extend to all allosteric modulators and may be specific for ethanol or ethanol-like agents. To explore molecular mechanisms underlying these results, we threaded the WT and deltaL2 GlyR sequences onto the x-ray structure of the bacterial Gloeobacter violaceus pentameric ligand-gated ion channel homologue (GLIC). In addition to being the first GlyR model threaded on GLIC, the juxtaposition of the two structures led to a possible mechanistic explanation for the effects of ethanol on GlyR-based on changes in Loop 2 structure.
Project description:Niflumic acid (NFA) is a member of the fenamate class of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This compound and its derivatives are used worldwide clinically for the relief of chronic and acute pain. NFA is also a commonly used blocker of voltage-gated chloride channels. Here we present evidence that NFA is an efficient blocker of chloride-permeable glycine receptors (GlyRs) with subunit heterogeneity of action. Using the whole-cell configuration of patch-clamp recordings and molecular modeling, we analyzed the action of NFA on homomeric ?1?Ins, ?2B, ?3L, and heteromeric ?1? and ?2? GlyRs expressed in CHO cells. NFA inhibited glycine-induced currents in a voltage-dependent manner and its blocking potency in ?2 and ?3 GlyRs was higher than that in ?1 GlyR. The Woodhull analysis suggests that NFA blocks ?1 and ?2 GlyRs at the fractional electrical distances of 0.16 and 0.65 from the external membrane surface, respectively. Thus, NFA binding site in ?1 GlyR is closer to the external part of the membrane, while in ?2 GlyR it is significantly deeper in the pore. Mutation G254A at the cytoplasmic part of the ?1 GlyR pore-lining TM2 helix (level 2') increased the NFA blocking potency, while incorporation of the ? subunit did not have a significant effect. The Hill plot analysis suggests that ?1 and ?2 GlyRs are preferably blocked by two and one NFA molecules, respectively. Molecular modeling using Monte Carlo energy minimizations provides the structural rationale for the experimental data and proposes more than one interaction site along the pore where NFA can suppress the ion permeation.
Project description:Strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors (GlyRs) mediate synaptic inhibition in the spinal cord, brainstem, and other regions of the mammalian central nervous system. In this minireview, we summarize our current view of the structure, ligand-binding sites, and chloride channel of these receptors and discuss recently emerging functions of distinct GlyR isoforms. GlyRs not only regulate the excitability of motor and afferent sensory neurons, including pain fibers, but also are involved in the processing of visual and auditory signals. Hence, GlyRs constitute promising targets for the development of therapeutically useful compounds.