Ligand binding to the membrane-bound acetylcholine receptor from Torpedo marmorata: a complete mathematical analysis

Biochemistry. 1992 Jul 28;31(29):6728-38. doi: 10.1021/bi00144a012.


We have studied by means of equilibrium binding and kinetic experiments the interaction of the membrane-bound nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nACHR) from Torpedo marmorata with [3H]acetylcholine and the fluorescent agonist NBD-5-acylcholine. In agreement with previous studies by others, we observed the preexistence, in the absence of ligand, of an equilibrium between two states of the nAChR, one with high affinity and the other with low affinity for agonist. As additional requirements for a minimal reaction scheme, we recognized (i) the existence of two ligand-binding sites, each of which may exist in two conformational states when occupied, and (ii) ligand-induced transitions between these conformations. Employing a special form of the allosteric model which considers these requirements, we then developed a suitable algorithm in order to simultaneously fit the whole set of equilibrium binding and kinetic data obtained for the two ligands. In this way we determined for a minimal model of the mechanism of action of the nAChR the complete set of rate constants and KD values involved. With these values available, we were able to simulate the rise and fall in the concentrations of individual receptor-ligand complexes and conformations occurring in the course of excitatory events at the electrocyte synapse. The membrane environment of the nAChR plays a decisive role with respect to the rates of conformational change of the nAChR occurring in the course of ligand interaction. Thus, artificial changes in membrane structure and composition can speed up by several orders of magnitude the rate of conformational change ("desensitization"). A proper structure of the surrounding membrane hence is a prerequisite for the physiological function of the membrane-embedded nAChR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Electric Organ / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Biological
  • Radioligand Assay / methods
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Time Factors
  • Torpedo
  • Tritium
  • Tubocurarine / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Tritium
  • Acetylcholine
  • Tubocurarine