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The α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs) constitute a subclass of the ionotropic glutamate receptor superfamily, which functions as glutamate-gated cation channels to mediate the majority of excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. AMPARs are therapeutic targets in a range of brain disorders associated with abnormal glutamate hyperactivity. Multiple classes of AMPAR inhibitors have been developed during the past decades, including competitive antagonists, ion channel blockers, and negative allosteric modulators (NAMs). At present, the NAM is the only class of AMPAR ligands that have been developed into safe and useful drugs in humans in the form of perampanel (Fycompa), which was recently approved for treatment of epilepsy. Compared with the detailed understanding of other AMPAR ligand classes, surprisingly little information has been available regarding the molecular mechanism of perampanel and other classes of NAMs at AMPARs; including the location and structure of NAM binding pockets in the receptor complex. However, structures of the AMPAR GluA2 in complex with NAMs were recently reported that unambiguously identified the NAM binding sites. In parallel with this work, our aim with the present study was to identify specific residues involved in the formation of the NAM binding site for three prototypical AMPAR NAMs. Hence, we have performed a mutational analysis of the AMPAR region that links the four extracellular ligand-binding domains to the central ion channel in the transmembrane domain region. Furthermore, we perform computational ligand docking of the NAMs into structural models of the homomeric GluA2 receptor and optimize side chain conformations around the NAMs to model how NAMs bind in this specific site. The new insights provide potentially valuable input for structure-based drug design of new NAMs. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: The α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors are glutamate-gated ion channels that mediate the majority of excitatory neurotransmission in the brain. Negative allosteric modulators of AMPA receptors are considered to have significant therapeutic potential in diseases linked to glutamate hyperactivity. The present work employs mutational analysis and molecular modeling of the binding site for prototypical NAMs to provide new molecular insight into how NAMs interact with the AMPA receptor, which is of potential use for future design of new types of NAMs.

Original publication




Journal article


Mol Pharmacol

Publication Date





835 - 850


Allosteric Regulation, Animals, Binding Sites, Crystallography, X-Ray, Female, HEK293 Cells, Humans, Mutation, Protein Structure, Secondary, Pyridones, Receptors, Glutamate, Xenopus laevis