Structural Basis for a Bimodal Allosteric Mechanism of General Anesthetic Modulation in Pentameric Ligand-Gated Ion Channels

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


  • Zaineb Fourati
  • Rebecca J Howard
  • Stephanie A Heusser
  • Haidai Hu
  • Reinis R Ruza
  • Ludovic Sauguet
  • Erik Lindahl
  • Marc Delarue

Ion channel modulation by general anesthetics is a vital pharmacological process with implications for receptor biophysics and drug development. Functional studies have implicated conserved sites of both potentiation and inhibition in pentameric ligand-gated ion channels, but a detailed structural mechanism for these bimodal effects is lacking. The prokaryotic model protein GLIC recapitulates anesthetic modulation of human ion channels, and it is accessible to structure determination in both apparent open and closed states. Here, we report ten X-ray structures and electrophysiological characterization of GLIC variants in the presence and absence of general anesthetics, including the surgical agent propofol. We show that general anesthetics can allosterically favor closed channels by binding in the pore or favor open channels via various subsites in the transmembrane domain. Our results support an integrated, multi-site mechanism for allosteric modulation, and they provide atomic details of both potentiation and inhibition by one of the most common general anesthetics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCell Reports
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)993-1004
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

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