Engineering a Human P2X2 Receptor with Altered Ligand Selectivity in Yeast

J Biol Chem. 2024 Mar 29:107248. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2024.107248. Online ahead of print.


P2X receptors are a family of ligand gated ion channels found in a range of eukaryotic species including humans but are not naturally present in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We demonstrate the first recombinant expression and functional gating of the P2X2 receptor in baker's yeast. We leverage the yeast host for facile genetic screens of mutant P2X2 by performing site saturation mutagenesis at residues of interest, including SNPs implicated in deafness and at residues involved in native binding. Deep mutational analysis and rounds of genetic engineering yield mutant P2X2 F303Y A304W, which has altered ligand selectivity towards the ATP analog AMP-PNP. The F303Y A304 variant shows over 100-fold increased intracellular calcium amplitudes with AMP-PNP compared to the WT receptor and has a much lower desensitization rate. Since AMP-PNP does not naturally activate P2X receptors, the F303Y A304 P2X2 may be a starting point for downstream applications in chemogenetic cellular control. Interestingly, the A304W mutation selectively destabilizes the desensitized state, which may provide a mechanistic basis for receptor opening with suboptimal agonists. The yeast system represents an inexpensive, scalable platform for ion channel characterization and engineering by circumventing the more expensive and time-consuming methodologies involving mammalian hosts.

Keywords: Ligand-gated ion channels; P2X2; protein engineering; yeast humanization.