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The pore domain of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor has been modeled as a bundle of five kinked M2 helices. Models were generated via molecular dynamics simulations incorporating restraints derived from 9-A resolution cryoelectron microscopy data (Unwin, 1993; 1995), and from mutagenesis data that identify channel-lining side chains. Thus, these models conform to current experimental data but will require revision as higher resolution data become available. Models of the open and closed states of a homopentameric alpha 7 pore are compared. The minimum radius of the closed-state model is less than 2 A; the minimum radius of the open-state models is approximately 6 A. It is suggested that the presence of "bound" water molecules within the pore may reduce the effective minimum radii below these values by up to approximately 3 A. Poisson-Boltzmann calculations are used to obtain a first approximation to the potential energy of a monovalent cation as it moves along the pore axis. The differences in electrostatic potential energy profiles between the open-state models of alpha 7 and of a mutant of alpha 7 are consistent with the experimentally observed change in ion selectivity from cationic to anionic. Models of the open state of the heteropentameric Torpedo nicotinic acetylcholine receptor pore domain are also described. Relatively small differences in pore radius and electrostatic potential energy profiles are seen when the Torpedo and alpha 7 models are compared.

Original publication




Journal article


Biophys J

Publication Date





1659 - 1671


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Calorimetry, Chickens, Conserved Sequence, Macromolecular Substances, Models, Molecular, Molecular Sequence Data, Protein Structure, Secondary, Receptors, Nicotinic, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Static Electricity, Torpedo