Probing the agonist binding pocket in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor: a high-resolution solid-state NMR approach.
Williamson PT., Gröbner G., Spooner PJ., Miller KW., Watts A.
Acetylcholine, the agonist for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, has been observed directly when bound specifically to its binding site in the fully functional receptor-enriched membranes from Torpedo nobiliana. High-resolution solid-state, magic angle spinning 13C NMR methods have been used to observe selectively N+(13CH3)3 acetylcholine bound in as few as 20 nmol of receptor binding sites, against a background of natural abundance membrane resonances and excess acetylcholine in free solution. The specificity of the binding has been demonstrated to be pharmacologically significant through the use of the competitive inhibitor alpha bungarotoxin which selectively displaces and prevents binding of acetylcholine to the membrane-bound receptor. The chemical shift assigned to N+(13CH3)3 acetylcholine in solution and crystalline solid is 53.9 +/- 0.04 ppm, and it changes by 1.6 ppm (p < 0.05) for agonist when bound specifically in the receptor binding site. Through the use of computer simulations of chemical shifts carried out on acetylcholine bound to the acetylcholinesterase, we propose that the cause for this change is the presence of aromatic side chains lining the receptor binding site. It is suggested that the binding of acetylcholine to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor is mediated primarily through the interaction of the quaternary ammonium group of the acetylcholine with the pi bonded systems in the aromatic side chains. Longitudinal relaxation time measurements show that the residency time for the acetylcholine observed in DDCP experiments is long (> 200 ms) with respect to the longitudinal relaxation time of other assignable resonances within the spectrum from the lipid and protein and confirms that the acetylcholine is protein-associated, and not free in solution or nonspecifically bound.