Comparative modeling of GABA(A) receptors: limits, insights, future developments

Neuroscience. 2003;119(4):933-43. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(03)00288-4.


GABA(A) receptors are chloride ion channels that mediate fast synaptic transmission and belong to a superfamily of pentameric ligand-gated ion channels. The recently published crystal structure of the acetylcholine binding protein can be used as a template for comparative modeling of the extracellular domain of GABA(A) receptors. In this commentary, difficulties with comparative modeling at low sequence identity are discussed, the degree of structural conservation to be expected within the superfamily is analyzed and numerical estimates of model uncertainties in functional regions are provided. Topography of the binding sites at subunit-interfaces is examined and possible targets for rational mutagenesis studies are suggested. Allosteric motions are considered and a mechanism for mediation of positive cooperativity at the benzodiazepine site is proposed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology
  • Receptors, GABA-A / chemistry*
  • Structural Homology, Protein
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, GABA-A