N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors mediate the slow component of excitatory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. These receptors are obligate heteromers containing glycine- and glutamate-binding subunits. The ligands bind to a bilobed agonist-binding domain of the receptor. Previous x-ray structures of the glycine-binding domain of NMDA receptors showed no significant changes between the partial and full agonist-bound structures. Here we have used single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) to investigate the cleft closure conformational states that the glycine-binding domain of the receptor adopts in the presence of the antagonist 5,7-dichlorokynurenic acid (DCKA), the partial agonists 1-amino-1-cyclobutanecarboxylic acid (ACBC) and L-alanine, and full agonists glycine and D-serine. For these studies, we have incorporated the unnatural amino acid p-acetyl-L-phenylalanine for specific labeling of the protein with hydrazide derivatives of fluorophores. The single molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer data show that the agonist-binding domain can adopt a wide range of cleft closure states with significant overlap in the states occupied by ligands of varying efficacy. The difference lies in the fraction of the protein in a more closed-cleft form, with full agonists having a larger fraction in the closed-cleft form, suggesting that the ability of ligands to select for these states could dictate the extent of activation.
Keywords: Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET); Glutamate Receptor; Ion Channel; Ionotropic Glutamate Receptor; LRET; Ligand-binding Protein; NMDA Receptor; Protein Dynamics; Receptor Structure-Function.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.