AMPA receptors mediate fast excitatory neurotransmission and are critical for CNS development and function. Calcium-permeable subsets of AMPA receptors are strongly implicated in acute and chronic neurological disorders. However, despite the clinical importance, the therapeutic landscape for specifically targeting them, and not the calcium-impermeable AMPA receptors, remains largely undeveloped. To address this problem, we used cryo-electron microscopy and electrophysiology to investigate the mechanisms by which small-molecule blockers selectively inhibit ion channel conductance in calcium-permeable AMPA receptors. We determined the structures of calcium-permeable GluA2 AMPA receptor complexes with the auxiliary subunit stargazin bound to channel blockers, including the orb weaver spider toxin AgTx-636, the spider toxin analog NASPM, and the adamantane derivative IEM-1460. Our structures provide insights into the architecture of the blocker binding site and the mechanism of trapping, which are critical for development of small molecules that specifically target calcium-permeable AMPA receptors.
Keywords: AMPA receptors; cryoelectron microscopy; drug development; glutamate receptors; ion channel block; ion channel structure; ion channels; ionotropic glutamate receptors; neurodegeneration; toxins.
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