Tryptophan-scanning mutagenesis in the alphaM3 transmembrane domain of the muscle-type acetylcholine receptor. A spring model revealed

J Biol Chem. 2007 Mar 23;282(12):9162-71. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M607492200. Epub 2007 Jan 22.


Membrane proteins constitute a large fraction of all proteins, yet very little is known about their structure and conformational transitions. A fundamental question that remains obscure is how protein domains that are in direct contact with the membrane lipids move during the conformational change of the membrane protein. Important structural and functional information of several lipid-exposed transmembrane domains of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) and other ion channel membrane proteins have been provided by the tryptophan-scanning mutagenesis. Here, we use the tryptophan-scanning mutagenesis to monitor the conformational change of the alphaM3 domain of the muscle-type AChR. The perturbation produced by the systematic tryptophan substitution along the alphaM3 domain were characterized through two-electrode voltage clamp and 125I-labeled alpha-bungarotoxin binding. The periodicity profiles of the changes in AChR expression (closed state) and ACh EC50 (open-channel state) disclose two different helical structures; a thinner-elongated helix for the closed state and a thicker-shrunken helix for the open-channel state. The existence of two different helical structures suggest that the conformational transition of the alphaM3 domain between both states resembles a spring motion and reveals that the lipid-AChR interface plays a key role in the propagation of the conformational wave evoked by agonist binding. In addition, the present study also provides evidence about functional and structural differences between the alphaM3 domains of the Torpedo and muscle-type receptors AChR.

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

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Bungarotoxins / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Mutagenesis*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism
  • Tryptophan / chemistry
  • Tryptophan / genetics*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Bungarotoxins
  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Tryptophan