Investigation of Agonist Recognition and Channel Properties in a Flatworm Glutamate-Gated Chloride Channel

Biochemistry. 2018 Feb 27;57(8):1360-1368. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01245. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


Glutamate-gated chloride channels (GluCls) are neurotransmitter receptors that mediate crucial inhibitory signaling in invertebrate neuromuscular systems. Their role in invertebrate physiology and their absence from vertebrates make GluCls a prime target for antiparasitic drugs. GluCls from flatworm parasites are substantially different from and are much less understood than those from roundworm and insect parasites, hindering the development of potential therapeutics targeting GluCls in flatworm-related diseases such as schistosomiasis. Here, we sought to dissect the molecular and chemical basis for ligand recognition in the extracellular glutamate binding site of SmGluCl-2 from Schistosoma mansoni, using site-directed mutagenesis, noncanonical amino acid incorporation, and electrophysiological recordings. Our results indicate that aromatic residues in ligand binding loops A, B, and C are important for SmGluCl-2 function. Loop C, which differs in length compared to other pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs), contributes to ligand recognition through both an aromatic residue and two vicinal threonine residues. We also show that, in contrast to other pLGICs, the hydrophobic channel gate in SmGluCl-2 extends from the 9' position to the 6' position in the channel-forming M2 helix. The 6' and 9' positions also seem to control sensitivity to the pore blocker picrotoxin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antiparasitic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Binding Sites / drug effects
  • Chloride Channels / chemistry
  • Chloride Channels / metabolism*
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Helminth Proteins / chemistry
  • Helminth Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Picrotoxin / pharmacology
  • Schistosoma mansoni / chemistry
  • Schistosoma mansoni / drug effects
  • Schistosoma mansoni / metabolism*
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / drug therapy
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni / parasitology
  • Xenopus


  • Antiparasitic Agents
  • Chloride Channels
  • Helminth Proteins
  • Ligands
  • glutamate-gated chloride channels
  • Picrotoxin
  • Glutamic Acid