Identification of residues that confer alpha-conotoxin-PnIA sensitivity on the alpha 3 subunit of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003 Aug;306(2):664-70. doi: 10.1124/jpet.103.051656. Epub 2003 May 6.


Neuronal nicotinic receptors composed of the alpha3 and beta2 subunits are at least 1000-fold more sensitive to blockade by alpha-conotoxin-PnIA than are alpha2beta2 receptors. A series of chimeric subunits, formed from portions of alpha2 and alpha3, were coexpressed with beta2 in Xenopus oocytes and tested for toxin sensitivity. We found determinants of toxin sensitivity to be widely distributed in the extracellular domain of alpha3. Analysis of receptors formed by a series of mutant alpha3 subunits, in which residues that differ between alpha3 and alpha2 were changed from what occurs in alpha3 to what occurs in alpha2, allowed identification of three determinants of alpha-conotoxin-PnIA sensitivity: proline 182, isoleucine 188, and glutamine 198. Comparison with determinants of alpha-conotoxin-MII and kappa-bungarotoxin sensitivity on the alpha3 subunit revealed overlapping, but distinct, arrays of determinants for each of these three toxins. When tested against an EC50 concentration of acetylcholine, the IC50 for alpha-conotoxin-PnIA blockade was 25 +/- 4 nM for alpha3beta2, 84 +/- 7 nM for alpha3P182Tbeta2, 700 +/- 92 nM for alpha3I188Kbeta2, and 870 +/- 61 nM for alpha3Q198Pbeta2. To examine the location of these residues within the receptor structure, we generated a homology model of the alpha3beta2 receptor extracellular domain using the structure of the acetylcholine binding protein as a template. All three residues are located on the C-loop of the alpha3 subunit, with isoleucine 188 nearest the acetylcholine-binding pocket.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bungarotoxins / metabolism
  • Conotoxins / chemistry
  • Conotoxins / pharmacology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oocytes
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Subunits / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / chemistry
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Bungarotoxins
  • Conotoxins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha-conotoxin PnIA