Molecular determinants of desensitization and assembly of the chimeric GABA(A) receptor subunits (alpha1/gamma2) and (gamma2/alpha1) in combinations with beta2 and gamma2

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L Elster, U Kristiansen, D S Pickering, R W Olsen, A Schousboe

Two gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) (GABA(A)) receptor chimeras were designed in order to elucidate the structural requirements for GABA(A) receptor desensitization and assembly. The (alpha1/gamma2) and (gamma2/alpha1) chimeric subunits representing the extracellular N-terminal domain of alpha1 or gamma2 and the remainder of the gamma2 or alpha1 subunits, respectively, were expressed with beta2 and beta2gamma2 in Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf-9) cells using the baculovirus expression system. The (alpha1/gamma2)beta2 and (alpha1/gamma2)beta2gamma2 but not the (gamma2/alpha1)beta2 and (gamma2/alpha1)beta2gamma2 subunit combinations formed functional receptor complexes as shown by whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and [3H]muscimol and [3H]flunitrazepam binding. Moreover, the surface immunofluorescence staining of Sf-9 cells expressing the (alpha1/gamma2)-containing receptors was pronounced, as opposed to the staining of the (gamma2/alpha1)-containing receptors, which was only slightly higher than background. To explain this, the (alpha1/gamma2) and (gamma2/alpha1) chimeras may act like alpha1 and gamma2 subunits, respectively, indicating that the extracellular N-terminal segment is important for assembly. However, the (alpha1/gamma2) chimeric subunit had characteristics different from the alpha1 subunit, since the (alpha1/gamma2) chimera gave rise to no desensitization after GABA stimulation in whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, which was independent of whether the chimera was expressed in combination with beta2 or beta2gamma2. Surprisingly, the (alpha1/gamma2)(gamma2/alpha1)beta2 subunit combination did desensitize, indicating that the C-terminal segment of the alpha1 subunit may be important for desensitization. Moreover, desensitization was observed for the (alpha1/gamma2)beta2gamma2 receptor with respect to the direct activation by pentobarbital. This suggests differences in the mechanism of channel activation for pentobarbital and GABA.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurochemistry International
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)581-92
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Keywords: Animals; Cell Line; Rats; Receptors, GABA-A; Recombinant Fusion Proteins; Spodoptera

ID: 20122726