Structure of the agonist-binding sites of the Torpedo nicotinic acetylcholine receptor: affinity-labeling and mutational analyses identify gamma Tyr-111/delta Arg-113 as antagonist affinity determinants

Biochemistry. 1999 May 18;38(20):6689-98. doi: 10.1021/bi9901735.


Photoaffinity labeling of the Torpedo nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) with [3H]d-tubocurarine (dTC) has identified a residue within the gamma-subunit which, along with the analogous residue in delta-subunit, confers selectivity in binding affinities between the two agonist sites for dTC and alpha-conotoxin (alpha Ctx) MI. nAChR gamma-subunit, isolated from nAChR-rich membranes photolabeled with [3H]dTC, was digested with Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease, and a 3H-labeled fragment was purified by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. Amino-terminal sequence analysis of this fragment identified 3H incorporation in gamma Tyr-111 and gamma Tyr-117 at about 5% and 1% of the efficiency of [3H]dTC photoincorporation at gamma Trp-55, the primary site of [3H]dTC photoincorporation within gamma-subunit [Chiara, D. C., and Cohen, J. B. (1997) J. Biol. Chem 272, 32940-32950]. The Torpedo nAChR delta-subunit residue corresponding to gamma Tyr-111 (delta Arg-113) contains a positive charge which could confer the lower binding affinity seen for some competitive antagonists at the alpha-delta agonist site. To test this hypothesis, we examined by voltage-clamp analysis and/or by [125I]alpha-bungarotoxin competition binding assays the interactions of acetylcholine (ACh), dTC, and alpha Ctx MI with nAChRs containing gamma Y111R or delta R113Y mutant subunits expressed in Xenopus oocytes. While these mutations affected neither ACh equilibrium binding affinity nor the concentration dependence of channel activation, the gamma Y111R mutation decreased by 10-fold dTC affinity and inhibition potency. Additionally, each mutation conferred a 1000-fold change in the equilibrium binding of alpha Ctx MI, with delta R113Y enhancing and gamma Y111R weakening affinity. Comparison of these results with previous results for mouse nAChR reveals that, while the same regions of gamma- (or delta-) subunit primary structure contribute to the agonist-binding sites, the particular amino acids that serve as antagonist affinity determinants are species-dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Arginine / genetics*
  • Arginine / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Conotoxins*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Electrophysiology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mollusk Venoms / chemistry
  • Mollusk Venoms / metabolism
  • Nicotinic Agonists / chemistry
  • Nicotinic Agonists / metabolism*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / chemistry
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / metabolism*
  • Oocytes / physiology
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry
  • Peptides, Cyclic / metabolism
  • Photoaffinity Labels / chemistry
  • Photoaffinity Labels / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / chemistry
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Torpedo
  • Tritium
  • Tubocurarine / chemistry
  • Tubocurarine / metabolism
  • Tyrosine / genetics*
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • Xenopus


  • Conotoxins
  • Mollusk Venoms
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Photoaffinity Labels
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Tritium
  • Tyrosine
  • conotoxin MI
  • Arginine
  • Tubocurarine