Functional differences between neurotransmitter binding sites of muscle acetylcholine receptors

Tapan K. Nayak, Iva Bruhova, Srirupa Chakraborty, Shaweta Gupta, Wenjun Zheng, Anthony Auerbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A muscle acetylcholine receptor (AChR) has two neurotransmitter binding sites located in the extracellular domain, at αδ and either αe (adult) or αγ (fetal) subunit interfaces. We used single-channel electrophysiology to measure the effects of mutations of five conserved aromatic residues at each site with regard to their contribution to the difference in free energy of agonist binding to active versus resting receptors (ΔGB1). The two binding sites behave independently in both adult and fetal AChRs. For four different agonists, including ACh and choline, ΔGB1 is ∼-2 kcal/mol more favorable at αγ compared with at αe and αδ. Only three of the aromatics contribute significantly to ΔGB1 at the adult sites (αY190, αY198, and αW149), but all five do so at αγ (as well as αY93 and γW55). γW55 makes a particularly large contribution only at αγ that is coupled energetically to those contributions of some of the α-subunit aromatics. The hydroxyl and benzene groups of loop C residues αY190 and αY198 behave similarly with regard to ΔGB1 at all three kinds of site. ACh binding energies estimated from molecular dynamics simulations are consistent with experimental values from electrophysiology and suggest that the αγ site is more compact, better organized, and less dynamic than αe and αδ. We speculate that the different sensitivities of the fetal αγ site versus the adult αe and αδ sites to choline and ACh are important for the proper maturation and function of the neuromuscular synapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17660-17665
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 9 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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