Format of Original
Journal of Neurochemistry
The GABAA receptor is an oligopentameric chloride channel that is activated via conformation changes induced upon the binding of the endogenous ligand, GABA, to the extracellular inter-subunit interfaces. Although dozens of amino acid residues at the α/β interface have been implicated in ligand binding, the structural elements that mediate ligand binding and receptor activation are not yet fully described. In this study, double-mutant cycle analysis was employed to test for possible interactions between several arginines (α1R67, α1R120, α1R132, and β2R207) and two aromatic residues (β2Y97 and β2F200) that are present in the ligand-binding pocket and are known to influence GABA affinity. Our results show that neither α1R67 nor α1R120 is functionally coupled to either of the aromatics, whereas a moderate coupling exists between α1R132 and both aromatic residues. Significant functional coupling between β2R207 and both β2Y97 and β2F200 was found. Furthermore, we identified an even stronger coupling between the two aromatics, β2Y97 and β2F200, and for the first time provided direct evidence for the involvement of β2Y97 and β2F200 in GABA binding. As these residues are tightly linked, and mutation of either has similar, severe effects on GABA binding and receptor kinetics, we believe they form a single functional unit that may directly coordinate GABA.