Evolutionary history of the ligand-gated ion-channel superfamily of receptors

Trends Neurosci. 1995 Mar;18(3):121-7. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(95)93887-4.


The fast-acting ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) constitute a group that encompasses nicotinic ACh, 5-HT3, GABAA and glycine receptors. Undoubtedly, they all share a common evolutionary ancestor, and the group can therefore be considered to be a gene superfamily. Because the members of the superfamily are all receptors, it is reasonable to suppose that their common ancestor must also have been some type of receptor, and because the receptors are made of similar subunits, the ancestor was probably homo-oligomeric. Although we failed to find a group of proteins that are related evolutionarily to this superfamily, the analysis of the evolutionary relationships within the superfamily is possible and can give rise to information about the evolution of the structure and function of present-day receptors and indeed of the nervous system itself.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Receptors, GABA / classification
  • Receptors, Glycine / classification
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / classification
  • Receptors, Serotonin / classification


  • Receptors, GABA
  • Receptors, Glycine
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Receptors, Serotonin