Magnitude of a conformational change in the glycine receptor beta1-beta2 loop is correlated with agonist efficacy

J Biol Chem. 2009 Oct 2;284(40):27370-6. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.048405. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


The efficacy of agonists at Cys-loop ion channel receptors is determined by the rate they isomerize receptors to a pre-open flip state. Once the flip state is reached, the shut-open reaction is similar for low and high efficacy agonists. The present study sought to identify a conformational change associated with the closed-flip transition in the alpha1-glycine receptor. We employed voltage-clamp fluorometry to compare ligand-binding domain conformational changes induced by the following agonists, listed from highest to lowest affinity and efficacy: glycine > beta-alanine > taurine. Voltage-clamp fluorometry involves labeling introduced cysteines with environmentally sensitive fluorophores and inferring structural rearrangements from ligand-induced fluorescence changes. Agonist affinity and efficacy correlated inversely with maximum fluorescence magnitudes at labeled residues in ligand-binding domain loops D and E, suggesting that large conformational changes in this region preclude efficacious gating. However, agonist affinity and efficacy correlated directly with maximum fluorescence magnitudes from a label attached to A52C in loop 2, near the transmembrane domain interface. Because glycine experiences the largest affinity increase between closed and flip states, we propose that the magnitude of this fluorescence signal is directly proportional to the agonist affinity increase. In contrast, labeled residues in loops C, F, and the pre-M1 domain yielded agonist-independent fluorescence responses. Our results support the conclusion that a closed-flip conformation change, with a magnitude proportional to the agonist affinity increase from closed to flip states, occurs in the microenvironment of Ala-52.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Isomerism
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Protein Structure, Secondary / drug effects
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glycine / agonists*
  • Receptors, Glycine / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Glycine / metabolism
  • Taurine / pharmacology


  • Receptors, Glycine
  • Taurine
  • Alanine
  • Glycine