A fluorophore attached to nicotinic acetylcholine receptor beta M2 detects productive binding of agonist to the alpha delta site
Dahan, D.S.; Dibas, M.I.; Petersson, E.J.; Auyeung, V.C.; Chanda, B.; Bezanilla, F.; Dougherty, D.A.; Lester, H.A.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 101(27): 10195-10200
To study conformational transitions at the muscle nicotinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptor (nAChR), a rhodamine fluorophore was tethered to a Cys side chain introduced at the beta 19' position in the M2 region of the nAChR expressed in Xenopus oocytes. This procedure led to only minor changes in receptor function. During agonist application, fluorescence increased by (Delta F/F) approximately 10%, and the emission peak shifted to lower wavelengths, indicating a more hydrophobic environment for the fluorophore. The dose-response relations for Delta F agreed well with those for epibatidine-induced currents, but were shifted approximately 100-fold to the left of those for ACh-induced currents. Because (i) epibatidine binds more tightly to the alpha gamma-binding site than to the alpha delta site and (ii) ACh binds with reverse-site selectivity, these data suggest that Delta F monitors an event linked to binding specifically at the alpha delta-subunit interface. In experiments with flash-applied agonists, the earliest detectable Delta F occurs within milliseconds, i.e., during activation. At low [ACh] (< or = 10 microM), a phase of Delta F occurs with the same time constant as desensitization, presumably monitoring an increased population of agonist-bound receptors. However, recovery from Delta F is complete before the slowest phase of recovery from desensitization (time constant approximately 250 s), showing that one or more desensitized states have fluorescence like that of the resting channel. That conformational transitions at the alpha delta-binding site are not tightly coupled to channel activation suggests that sequential rather than fully concerted transitions occur during receptor gating. Thus, time-resolved fluorescence changes provide a powerful probe of nAChR conformational changes.