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The human glycine receptor (hGlyR) is an anion-permeable ligand-gated channel that is part of a larger superfamily of receptors called the Cys-loop family. hGlyRs are particularly amenable to single-channel recordings, thus making them a model experimental system for understanding the Cys-loop receptor family in general. Understanding the relationship between agonist binding and efficacy in Cys-loop receptors should improve our future prospects for making specific agonists or antagonists. However, at present, there is no high-resolution structure for the complete hGlyR, and thus, modeling is needed to provide a physical framework on which to interpret single-channel data. The structure of the glutamate-gated chloride channel from Caenorhabditis elegans shows a much higher level of sequence identity to human hGlyR than previous templates such as AChBP or the bacterial channels, GLIC and ELIC. Thus, we constructed a model of the hGlyR and validated it against previously reported mutagenesis data. We used molecular dynamics to refine the model and to explore binding of both an agonist (glycine) and an antagonist (strychnine). The model shows excellent agreement with previous data but also suggests some unique features: (i) a water molecule that forms part of the binding site and allows us to account for some previous results that were difficult to reconcile, (ii) an interaction of the glycine agonist with S129, and (iii) an effect from E211, both of which we confirmed with new site-directed mutagenesis and patch clamp recordings. Finally, examination of the simulations suggests that strychnine binding induces movement to a conformational state distinct from the glycine-bound or apo state, not only within the ligand-binding domain but also in the transmembrane domain.

Original publication

DOI

10.1021/bi500815f

Type

Journal article

Journal

Biochemistry

Publication Date

30/09/2014

Volume

53

Pages

6041 - 6051

Keywords

Catalytic Domain, Humans, Models, Molecular, Protein Conformation, Receptors, Glycine