Decidium. A novel fluorescent probe of the agonist/antagonist and noncompetitive inhibitor sites on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

J Biol Chem. 1987 Oct 15;262(29):14022-9.


We have examined the interaction of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor with decidium diiodide, a bisquaternary analogue of ethidium containing 10 methylene groups between the endocyclic and trimethylamino quaternary nitrogens. Decidium inhibits mono-[125I]iodo-alpha-toxin binding, inhibits agonist-elicited 22Na+ influx in intact cells, augments agonist competition with mono-[125I]iodo-alpha-toxin binding, and enhances [3H]phencyclidine (PCP) binding to a noncompetitive inhibitor site. These effects occur over similar concentration ranges (half-maximum effects between 0.1 and 0.4 microM). Thus, decidium binds to the agonist site and converts the receptor to a desensitized state exhibiting increased affinity for agonist and heterotropic inhibitors. These properties are similar to metaphilic antagonists characterized in classical pharmacology. At higher concentrations decidium associates directly with the noncompetitive inhibitor site identified by [3H]phencyclidine binding. Dissociation constants of decidium at this site in the resting and desensitized states are determined to be 29 and 1.2 microM, respectively. Analysis of fluorescence excitation and emission maxima reveal that binding to both the agonist and noncompetitive inhibitor sites is associated with approximately 2-fold enhancement of fluorescence. The excitation maximum for decidium bound at the agonist site appears at 490 nm while that for decidium bound at the noncompetitive inhibitor site appears at 530 compared to 480 nm in buffer. These results suggest that decidium experiences a more hydrophobic environment upon binding to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor sites, particularly to the noncompetitive inhibitor site. Fluorescence energy transfer between N'-fluorescein isothiocyanate-lysine-23 alpha-toxin (FITC-toxin), and decidium is not detected when each is bound to one of the two agonist sites on the receptor. This allows a minimal distance to be estimated between fluorophores. In contrast, energy transfer is observed between decidium nonspecifically associated with the membrane or with nonspecific sites and the FITC-toxin at the agonist sites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Electric Organ / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Phenanthridines / pharmacology*
  • Phencyclidine / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Torpedo / metabolism


  • Phenanthridines
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • decidium
  • Phencyclidine