Size matters in activation/inhibition of ligand-gated ion channels.
ABSTRACT: Cys loop, glutamate, and P2X receptors are ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) with 5, 4, and 3 protomers, respectively. There is now growing atomic level understanding of their gating mechanisms. Although each family is unique in the architecture of the ligand-binding pocket, the pathway for motions to propagate from ligand-binding domain to transmembrane domain, and the gating motions of the transmembrane domain, there are common features among the LGICs, which are the focus of the present review. In particular, agonists and competitive antagonists apparently induce opposite motions of the binding pocket. A simple way to control the motional direction is ligand size. Agonists, usually small, induce closure of the binding pocket, leading to opening of the channel pore, whereas antagonists, usually large, induce opening of the binding pocket, thereby stabilizing the closed pore. A cross-family comparison of the gating mechanisms of the LGICs, focusing in particular on the role played by ligand size, provides new insight on channel activation/inhibition and design of pharmacological compounds.
Project description:Desensitization is an important mechanism curtailing the activity of ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs). Although the structural basis of desensitization is not fully resolved, it is thought to be governed by physicochemical properties of bound ligands. Here, we show the importance of an allosteric cation-binding pocket in controlling transitions between activated and desensitized states of rat kainate-type (KAR) ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs). Tethering a positive charge to this pocket sustains KAR activation, preventing desensitization, whereas mutations that disrupt cation binding eliminate channel gating. These different outcomes explain the structural distinction between deactivation and desensitization. Deactivation occurs when the ligand unbinds before the cation, whereas desensitization proceeds if a ligand is bound without cation pocket occupancy. This sequence of events is absent from AMPA-type iGluRs; thus, cations are identified as gatekeepers of KAR gating, a role unique among even closely related LGICs.
Project description:Ligand migration processes inside myoglobin and protein dynamics coupled to the migration were theoretically investigated with molecular dynamics simulations. Based on a linear response theory, we identified protein motions coupled to the transient migration of ligand, carbon monoxide (CO), through channels. The result indicates that the coupled protein motions involve collective motions extended over the entire protein correlated with local gating motions at the channels. Protein motions, coupled to opening of a channel from the distal pocket to a neighboring xenon site, were found to share the collective motion with experimentally observed protein motions coupled to a doming motion of the heme Fe atom upon photodissociation of the ligand. Analysis based on generalized Langevin dynamics elucidated slow and diffusive features of the protein response motions. Remarkably small transmission coefficients for rates of the CO migrations through myoglobin were found, suggesting that the CO migration dynamics are characterized as motions governed by the protein dynamics involving the collective motions, rather than as thermally activated transitions across energy barriers of well-structured channels.
Project description:We present a mathematical model for ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluR's) that is built on mechanistic understanding and yields a number of thermodynamic and kinetic properties of channel gating. iGluR's are ligand-gated ion channels responsible for the vast majority of fast excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. The effects of agonist-induced closure of the ligand-binding domain (LBD) are transmitted to the transmembrane channel (TMC) via interdomain linkers. Our model demonstrates that, relative to full agonists, partial agonists may reduce either the degree of LBD closure or the curvature of the LBD free energy basin, leading to less stabilization of the channel open state and hence lower channel open probability. A rigorous relation is derived between the channel closed-to-open free energy difference and the tension within the linker. Finally, by treating LBD closure and TMC opening as diffusive motions, we obtain gating trajectories that resemble stochastic current traces from single-channel recordings and calculate the rate constants for transitions between the channel open and closed states. Our model can be implemented by molecular dynamics simulations to realistically depict iGluR gating and may guide functional experiments in gaining deeper insight into this essential family of channel proteins.
Project description:Neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine (ACh) and glycine mediate fast synaptic neurotransmission by activating pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs). These receptors are allosteric transmembrane proteins that rapidly convert chemical messages into electrical signals. Neurotransmitters activate LGICs by interacting with an extracellular agonist-binding domain (ECD), triggering a tertiary/quaternary conformational change in the protein that results in the fast opening of an ion pore domain (IPD). However, the molecular mechanism that determines the fast opening of LGICs remains elusive. Here, we show by combining whole-cell and single-channel recordings of recombinant chimeras between the ECD of alpha7 nicotinic receptor (nAChR) and the IPD of the glycine receptor (GlyR) that only two GlyR amino acid residues of loop 7 (Cys-loop) from the ECD and at most five alpha7 nAChR amino acid residues of the M2-M3 loop (2-3L) from the IPD control the fast activation rates of the alpha7/Gly chimera and WT GlyR. Mutual interactions of these residues at a critical pivot point between the agonist-binding site and the ion channel fine-tune the intrinsic opening and closing rates of the receptor through stabilization of the transition state of activation. These data provide a structural basis for the fast opening of pentameric LGICs.
Project description:Activation of ligand-gated channels is initiated by the binding of small molecules at extracellular sites and culminates with the opening of a membrane-embedded pore. To investigate how perturbations at ligand-binding domains influence the gating reaction, we examined current traces recorded from individual NMDA receptors in the presence of several subunit-specific partial agonists. We found that low-efficacy agonists acting at either the glycine-binding or the glutamate-binding NMDA receptor subunits had very similar effects on the receptor's activation reaction, possibly reflecting a high degree of coupling between the two subunit types during gating. In addition, we found that partial agonists increased the height of all energy barriers encountered by NMDA receptors during activation. This result stands in sharp contrast to the localized effects that have been observed for pentameric ligand-gated channels and may represent a previously unknown mechanism by which partial agonists reduce receptor activity.
Project description:AMPA receptors (AMPARs) are tetrameric ligand-gated ion channels that couple the energy of glutamate binding to the opening of a transmembrane channel. Crystallographic and electrophysiological analysis of AMPARs has suggested a coupling between (1) cleft closure in the bilobate ligand-binding domain (LBD), (2) the resulting separation of transmembrane helix attachment points across subunit dimers, and (3) agonist efficacy. In general, more efficacious agonists induce greater degrees of cleft closure and transmembrane separation than partial agonists. Several apparent violations of the cleft-closure/efficacy paradigm have emerged, although in all cases, intradimer separation remains as the driving force for channel opening. Here, we examine the structural basis of partial agonism in GluA4 AMPARs. We find that the L651V substitution enhances the relative efficacy of kainate without increasing either LBD cleft closure or transmembrane separation. Instead, the conformational change relative to the wild-type:kainate complex involves a twisting motion with the efficacy contribution opposite from that expected based on previous analyses. As a result, channel opening may involve transmembrane rearrangements with a significant rotational component. Furthermore, a two-dimensional analysis of agonist-induced GluA2 LBD motions suggests that efficacy is not a linearly varying function of lobe 2 displacement vectors, but is rather determined by specific conformational requirements of the transmembrane domains.
Project description:P2X receptors are trimeric ATP-gated cation channels participating in diverse physiological processes. How ATP binding triggers channel opening remains unclear. Here the gating mechanism of a P2X receptor was studied by normal mode analysis and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Based on the resting-state crystal structure, a normal mode involving coupled motions of three β-strands (β1, β13, and β14) at the trimeric interface of the ligand-binding ectodomain and the pore-lining helix (TM2) in the transmembrane domain (TMD) was identified. The resulting widening of the fenestrations above the TMD and opening of the transmembrane pore produce known signatures of channel activation. In MD simulations, ATP was initially placed in the putative binding pocket (defined by four charged residues located in β1, β13 and β14) in two opposite orientations, with the adenine either proximal or distal to the TMD. In the proximal orientation, the triphosphate group extends outward to draw in the four charged residues, leading to closure of β13/β14 toward β1. The adenine ring, wedged between β1 and β13, acts as a fulcrum for the β14 lever, turning a modest closure around the triphosphate group into significant opening of the pre-TM2 loop. The motions of these β-strands are similar to those in the putative channel-activation normal mode. In the distal orientation, the ATP stabilizes the trimeric interface and the closure of the pre-TM2 loop, possibly representing desensitization. Our computational studies produced the first complete model, supported by experimental data, for how ATP binding triggers activation of a P2X receptor.
Project description:The extent to which agonists activate synaptic receptor-channels depends on both the intrinsic tendency of the unliganded receptor to open and the amount of agonist binding energy realized in the channel-opening process. We examined mutations of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor transmitter binding site (α subunit loop B) with regard to both of these parameters. αGly147 is an "activation" hinge where backbone flexibility maintains high values for intrinsic gating, the affinity of the resting conformation for agonists and net ligand binding energy. αGly153 is a "deactivation" hinge that maintains low values for these parameters. αTrp149 (between these two glycines) serves mainly to provide ligand binding energy for gating. We propose that a concerted motion of the two glycine hinges (plus other structural elements at the binding site) positions αTrp149 so that it provides physiologically optimal binding and gating function at the nerve-muscle synapse.
Project description:In recent decades, the majority of ligands developed for the vitamin D receptor (VDR) bind at its deeply buried genomic ligand binding pocket. Theses ligands can be categorized into agonists and partial agonists/antagonists. A limited number of ligands, most of them peptides, bind the VDR?coactivator binding site that is formed in the presence of an agonist and inhibit coactivator recruitment, and therefore transcription. Another solvent exposed VDR?ligand binding pocket was identified for lithocholic acid, improving the overall stability of the VDR complex. Additional proposed interactions with VDR are discussed herein that include the alternative VDR?ligand binding pocket that may mediate both non-genomic cellular responses and binding function 3 that was identified for the androgen receptor. Many VDR ligands increase blood calcium levels at therapeutic concentrations in vivo, thus the identification of alternative VDR?ligand binding pockets might be crucial to develop non-calcemic and potent ligands for VDR to treat cancer and inflammatory disease.
Project description:The soluble acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) is the default structural proxy for pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs). Unfortunately, it is difficult to recognize conformational signatures of LGIC agonism and antagonism within the large set of AChBP crystal structures in both apo and ligand-bound states, primarily because AChBP conformations in this set are nearly superimposable (root mean square deviation < 1.5 Å). We have undertaken a systematic, alignment-free approach to elucidate conformational differences displayed by AChBP that cleanly differentiate apo/antagonist-bound from agonist-bound states. Our approach uses statistical inference based on both crystallographic states and conformations sampled during long molecular dynamics simulations to select important inter-C(?) distances and map their collective values onto functional states. We observe that binding of (nAChR) agonists to AChBP elicits clockwise rotation of the inner ?-sheet with respect to the outer ?-sheet, causing tilting of the cys-loop away from the five-fold axis, in a manner quite similar to that speculated for ?-subunits of the heteromeric nAChR structure (Unwin, J Mol Biol 2005;346:967), making this motion potentially important in transmission of the gating signal to the transmembrane domain of a LGIC. The method is also successful at discriminating partial from full agonists and supports the hypothesis that a particularly controversial ligand, lobeline, is in fact an LGIC antagonist.