Global functions of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, such as subunit cooperativity and compatibility, likely emerge from a network of amino acid residues distributed across the entire pentameric complex. Identification of such networks has stymied traditional approaches to acetylcholine receptor structure and function, likely due to the cryptic interdependency of their underlying amino acid residues. An emerging evolutionary biochemistry approach, which traces the evolutionary history of acetylcholine receptor subunits, allows for rational mapping of acetylcholine receptor sequence space, and offers new hope for uncovering the amino acid origins of these enigmatic properties.
Keywords: Acetylcholine receptor; Ancestral protein reconstruction; Evolutionary biochemistry; Patch-clamp electrophysiology; Pentameric ligand-gated ion channel.
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