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Kainate receptors require the presence of external ions for gating. Most work thus far has been performed on homomeric GluK2 but, in vivo, kainate receptors are likely heterotetramers. Agonists bind to the ligand-binding domain (LBD) which is arranged as a dimer of dimers as exemplified in homomeric structures, but no high-resolution structure currently exists of heteromeric kainate receptors. In a full-length heterotetramer, the LBDs could potentially be arranged either as a GluK2 homomer alongside a GluK5 homomer or as two GluK2/K5 heterodimers. We have constructed models of the LBD dimers based on the GluK2 LBD crystal structures and investigated their stability with molecular dynamics simulations. We have then used the models to make predictions about the functional behavior of the full-length GluK2/K5 receptor, which we confirmed via electrophysiological recordings. A key prediction and observation is that lithium ions bind to the dimer interface of GluK2/K5 heteromers and slow their desensitization.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





2173 - 2177


Glutamates, Ligands, Lithium, Models, Molecular, Protein Domains, Protein Multimerization, Protein Structure, Quaternary, Receptors, Kainic Acid