Background and Purpose
It has been proposed that arginine residues lining the intracellular portals of the homomeric 5-HT3A receptor cause electrostatic repulsion of cation flow, accounting for a single-channel conductance substantially lower than that of the 5-HT3AB heteromer. However, comparison of receptor homology models for wild-type pentamers suggests that salt bridges in the intracellular domain of the homomer may impart structural rigidity, and we hypothesized that this rigidity could account for the low conductance.
Mutations were introduced into the portal region of the human 5-HT3A homopentamer, such that putative salt bridges were broken by neutralizing anionic partners. Single-channel and whole cell currents were measured in transfected tsA201 cells and in Xenopus oocytes respectively. Computational simulations of protein flexibility facilitated comparison of wild-type and mutant receptors.
Single-channel conductance was increased substantially, often to wild-type heteromeric receptor values, in most 5-HT3A mutants. Conversely, introduction of arginine residues to the portal region of the heteromer, conjecturally creating salt bridges, decreased conductance. Gating kinetics varied significantly between different mutant receptors. EC50 values for whole-cell responses to 5-HT remained largely unchanged, but Hill coefficients for responses to 5-HT were usually significantly smaller in mutants. Computational simulations suggested increased flexibility throughout the protein structure as a consequence of mutations in the intracellular domain.
Conclusions and Implications
These data support a role for intracellular salt bridges in maintaining the quaternary structure of the 5-HT3 receptor and suggest a role for the intracellular domain in allosteric modulation of cooperativity and agonist efficacy.
This article is commented on by Vardy and Kenakin, pp. 1614–1616 of volume 171 issue 7. To view this commentary visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bph.12550.