Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 12727867
EMBO J. 2003 May;22(9):1990-2003
The molecular mechanisms of nicotinic receptor activation are still largely unknown. The crystallographic structure of the acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) reveals a single H-bond between two different acetylcholine binding loops. Within these homologous loops we systematically introduced alpha4 residues into the alpha7/5HT(3) chimeric receptor and found that the single point mutations G152K (loop B) and P193I (loop C) displayed a non-additive increase of equilibrium binding affinity for several agonists compared with the double mutant G152K/P193I. In whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, G152K, P193I and G152K/P193I mutants displayed an increase up to 5-fold in acetylcholine potency with a large decrease of the apparent Hill coefficients (significantly smaller than one). Concomitantly, the G152K/P193I mutant showed a dramatic loss of high-affinity alpha-bungarotoxin binding (100-fold decrease), thus pinpointing a new contact area for the toxin. Fitting the data with an allosteric-kinetic model, together with molecular dynamic simulations, suggests that the presence of the inter-backbone H-bond between positions 152 and 193, revealed in alpha4 and in alpha7 double mutant but not in alpha7, coincides with a large stabilization of both open and desensitized states of nicotinic receptors.