Background and purpose: Although the stoichiometry of the major synaptic αβγ subunit-containing GABAA receptors has consensus support for 2α:2β:1γ, a clear view of the stoichiometry of extrasynaptic receptors containing δ subunits has remained elusive. Here we examine the subunit stoichiometry of recombinant α4β3δ receptors using a reporter mutation and a functional electrophysiological approach.
Experimental approach: Using site-directed mutagenesis, we inserted a highly characterized 9' serine to leucine mutation into the second transmembrane (M2) region of α4, β3 and δ subunits that increases receptor sensitivity to GABA. Whole-cell, GABA-activated currents were recorded from HEK-293 cells co-expressing different combinations of wild-type (WT) and/or mutant α4(L297S), β3(L284S) and δ(L288S) subunits.
Key results: Recombinant receptors containing one or more mutant subunits showed increased GABA sensitivity relative to WT receptors by approximately fourfold, independent of the subunit class (α, β or δ) carrying the mutation. GABA dose-response curves of cells co-expressing WT subunits with their respective L9'S mutants exhibited multiple components, with the number of discernible components enabling a subunit stoichiometry of 2α, 2β and 1δ to be deduced for α4β3δ receptors. Varying the cDNA transfection ratio by 10-fold had no significant effect on the number of incorporated δ subunits.
Conclusions and implications: Subunit stoichiometry is an important determinant of GABAA receptor function and pharmacology, and δ subunit-containing receptors are important mediators of tonic inhibition in several brain regions. Here we demonstrate a preferred subunit stoichiometry for α4β3δ receptors of 2α, 2β and 1δ.
Keywords: GABAA receptor; extrasynaptic; stoichiometry; δ subunit.
© 2013 The British Pharmacological Society.