Channel opening motion of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor as suggested by normal mode analysis

J Mol Biol. 2006 Jan 13;355(2):310-24. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2005.10.039. Epub 2005 Nov 8.


The gating motion of the human nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) alpha7 was investigated with normal mode analysis (NMA) of two homology models. The first model, referred to as model I, was built from both the Lymnaea stagnalis acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) and the transmembrane (TM) domain of the Torpedo marmorata nAChR. The second model, referred to as model C, was based solely on the recent electron microscopy structure of the T. marmorata nAChR. Despite structural differences, both models exhibit nearly identical patterns of flexibility and correlated motions. In addition, both models show a similar global twisting motion that may represent channel gating. The similar results obtained for the two models indicate that NMA is most sensitive to the contact topology of the structure rather than its finer detail. The major difference between the low-frequency motions sampled for the two models is that a symmetrical pore-breathing motion, favoring channel opening, is present as the second most dominant motion in model I, whilst largely absent from model C. The absence of this mode in model C can be attributed to its less symmetrical architecture. Finally, as a further goal of the present study, an approximate open channel model, consistent with many experimental findings, has been produced.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / chemistry*
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Chrna7 protein, human
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor