Document Type




Format of Original

10 p.

Publication Date




Source Publication

British Journal of Pharmacology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00397.x; PubMed Central: PMCID 2782349


Background and purpose:  Alcohol produces its behavioural effects in part due to inhibition of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the CNS. Previous studies have identified amino acid residues in membrane-associated domains 3 (M3) and 4 (M4) of the NMDA receptor that influence ethanol sensitivity. In addition, in other alcohol-sensitive ion channels, sedative-hypnotic agents have in some cases been shown to act at sites distinct from the sites of ethanol action. In this study, we compared the influence of mutations at these sites on sensitivity to ethanol and trichloroethanol, a sedative-hypnotic agent that is a structural analogue of ethanol.

Experimental approach:  We constructed panels of mutants at ethanol-sensitive positions in the GluN2A (NR2A) NMDA receptor subunit and transiently expressed these mutants in human embryonic kidney 293 cells. We used whole-cell patch-clamp recording to assess the actions of ethanol and trichloroethanol in these mutant NMDA receptors.

Key results:  Ethanol sensitivity of mutants at GluN2A(Ala825) was not correlated with any physicochemical measures tested. Trichloroethanol sensitivity was altered in two of three ethanol-insensitive mutant GluN2A subunits: GluN2A(Phe637Trp) in M3 and GluN2A(Ala825Trp) in M4, but not GluN2A(Met823Trp). Trichloroethanol sensitivity decreased with increasing molecular volume at Phe637 or increasing hydrophobicity at Ala825 and was correlated with ethanol sensitivity at both sites.

Conclusions and implications:  Evidence obtained to date is consistent with a role of GluN2A(Ala825) as a modulatory site for ethanol and trichloroethanol sensitivity, but not as a binding site. Trichloroethanol appears to inhibit the NMDA receptor in a manner similar, but not identical to, that of ethanol.


Accepted version. British Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 158, No. 5 (November 2009): 1395–1404. DOI. © Wiley 2009. Used with permission.

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: "Differential Actions of Ethanol and Trichloroethanol at Sites in the M3 and M4 Domains of the NMDA Receptor GluN2A (NR2A) Subunit," which has been published in final form here: DOI. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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