Ligand-binding domain of an α7-nicotinic receptor chimera and its complex with agonist

Nat Neurosci. 2011 Sep 11;14(10):1253-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.2908.


The α(7) acetylcholine receptor (AChR) mediates pre- and postsynaptic neurotransmission in the central nervous system and is a potential therapeutic target in neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric and inflammatory disorders. We determined the crystal structure of the extracellular domain of a receptor chimera constructed from the human α(7) AChR and Lymnaea stagnalis acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP), which shares 64% sequence identity and 71% similarity with native α(7). We also determined the structure with bound epibatidine, a potent AChR agonist. Comparison of the structures revealed molecular rearrangements and interactions that mediate agonist recognition and early steps in signal transduction in α(7) AChRs. The structures further revealed a ring of negative charge within the central vestibule, poised to contribute to cation selectivity. Structure-guided mutational studies disclosed distinctive contributions to agonist recognition and signal transduction in α(7) AChRs. The structures provide a realistic template for structure-aided drug design and for defining structure-function relationships of α(7) AChRs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / drug effects
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic / pharmacology
  • Chimera
  • Conserved Sequence / drug effects
  • Conserved Sequence / genetics
  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods
  • Humans
  • Ligands*
  • Lymnaea
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Protein Conformation / drug effects
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects


  • Bridged Bicyclo Compounds, Heterocyclic
  • Ligands
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • epibatidine

Associated data

  • PDB/3SQ6
  • PDB/3SQ9