Crystal structures of the M1 and M4 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors

Nature. 2016 Mar 17;531(7594):335-40. doi: 10.1038/nature17188. Epub 2016 Mar 9.


Muscarinic M1-M5 acetylcholine receptors are G-protein-coupled receptors that regulate many vital functions of the central and peripheral nervous systems. In particular, the M1 and M4 receptor subtypes have emerged as attractive drug targets for treatments of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia, but the high conservation of the acetylcholine-binding pocket has spurred current research into targeting allosteric sites on these receptors. Here we report the crystal structures of the M1 and M4 muscarinic receptors bound to the inverse agonist, tiotropium. Comparison of these structures with each other, as well as with the previously reported M2 and M3 receptor structures, reveals differences in the orthosteric and allosteric binding sites that contribute to a role in drug selectivity at this important receptor family. We also report identification of a cluster of residues that form a network linking the orthosteric and allosteric sites of the M4 receptor, which provides new insight into how allosteric modulation may be transmitted between the two spatially distinct domains.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Allosteric Regulation / drug effects
  • Allosteric Site / drug effects
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Inverse Agonism
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nicotinic Acids / metabolism
  • Nicotinic Acids / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1 / chemistry*
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M4 / chemistry*
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M4 / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Static Electricity
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Surface Properties
  • Thiophenes / metabolism
  • Thiophenes / pharmacology
  • Tiotropium Bromide / pharmacology


  • 3-amino-5-chloro-6-methoxy-4-methyl-thieno(2,3-b)pyridine-2-carboxylic acid cyclopropylamide
  • Nicotinic Acids
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M4
  • Thiophenes
  • Acetylcholine
  • Tiotropium Bromide

Associated data

  • PDB/5CXV
  • PDB/5DSG