Alpha subunit-dependent glycine receptor clustering and regulation of synaptic receptor numbers

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 7;7(1):10899. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-11264-3.


Accumulation of glycine receptors at synapses requires the interaction between the beta subunit of the receptor and the scaffold protein gephyrin. Here, we questioned whether different alpha subunits could modulate the receptors' diffusion and propensity to cluster at spinal cord synapses. Using quantitative photoactivated localisation microscopy we found that alpha-1 and alpha-3 containing glycine receptors display the same α32 stoichiometry and gephyrin binding. Despite these similarities, alpha-3 containing receptors are less mobile and cluster at higher density compared to alpha-1, with 1500 versus 1100 complexes µm-2, respectively. Furthermore, we identified a subunit-specific regulation of glycine receptor copy numbers at synapses: when challenged with interleukin 1β, the synaptic occupancy of alpha-1 but not alpha-3 receptors was reduced. This mechanism may play a role in the cell-type dependent regulation of glycinergic currents in response to interleukin 1β and highlights the capacity of the alpha subunits to affect receptor-gephyrin binding at synapses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Glycine / metabolism*
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Glycine
  • gephyrin