Polyunsaturated fatty acids inhibit a pentameric ligand-gated ion channel through one of two binding sites

Elife. 2022 Jan 4:11:e74306. doi: 10.7554/eLife.74306.


Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) inhibit pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs) but the mechanism of inhibition is not well understood. The PUFA, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), inhibits agonist responses of the pLGIC, ELIC, more effectively than palmitic acid, similar to the effects observed in the GABAA receptor and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Using photo-affinity labeling and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, we identified two fatty acid binding sites in the outer transmembrane domain (TMD) of ELIC. Fatty acid binding to the photolabeled sites is selective for DHA over palmitic acid, and specific for an agonist-bound state. Hexadecyl-methanethiosulfonate modification of one of the two fatty acid binding sites in the outer TMD recapitulates the inhibitory effect of PUFAs in ELIC. The results demonstrate that DHA selectively binds to multiple sites in the outer TMD of ELIC, but that state-dependent binding to a single intrasubunit site mediates DHA inhibition of ELIC.

Keywords: biochemistry; chemical biology; coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations; docosahexaenoic acid; ligand-gated ion channel; mass spectrometry; molecular biophysics; none; photoaffinity labeling; polyunsaturated fatty acid; structural biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Ligand-Gated Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Domains


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Ligand-Gated Ion Channels