Molecular basis of the two nonequivalent ligand binding sites of the muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

Neuron. 1989 Sep;3(3):349-57. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(89)90259-6.


We have stably expressed in fibroblasts different pairs of alpha and non-alpha subunits of the mouse muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR). The gamma and delta, but not the beta, subunits associated efficiently with the alpha subunit, and they extensively modified its binding characteristics. The alpha gamma and alpha delta complexes formed distinctly different high affinity binding sites for the competitive antagonist d-tubocurarine that, together, completely accounted for the two nonequivalent antagonist binding sites in native AChR. The alpha delta complex and native AChR had similar affinities for the agonist carbamylcholine. In contrast, although the alpha gamma complex contains the higher affinity competitive antagonist binding site, it had an affinity for carbamylcholine that was an order of magnitude less than that of the alpha delta complex or the AChR. The comparatively low agonist affinity of the alpha gamma complex may represent an allosterically regulated binding site in the native AChR. These data support a model of two nonequivalent binding sites within the AChR and imply that the basis for this nonequivalence is the association of the alpha subunit with the gamma or delta subunit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Bungarotoxins / metabolism
  • Carbachol / metabolism
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Ligands
  • Muscles / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Tubocurarine / metabolism


  • Bungarotoxins
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Carbachol
  • Tubocurarine