Loop G in the GABAA receptor α1 subunit influences gating efficacy

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The modification of cysteine residues (substituted for D43 and T47) by 2-aminoethyl methanethiosulfonate in the GABAA α1 subunit loop G is known to impair activation of α1β2γ2 receptors by GABA and propofol. While the T47C substitution had no significant effect, non-conservative substitution of either residue (D43C or T47R) reduced the apparent potency of GABA. Propofol (1 μm), which potentiates sub-maximal but not maximal GABA-evoked currents mediated by α1β2γ2 receptors, also potentiated maximal currents mediated by α1(D43C)β2γ2 and α1(T47R)β2γ2 receptors. Furthermore, the peak open probabilities of α1(D43C)β2γ2 and α1(T47R)β2γ2 receptors were reduced. The kinetics of macroscopic currents mediated by α1(D43C)β2γ2 and α1(T47R)β2γ2 receptors were characterised by slower desensitisation and faster deactivation. Similar changes in macroscopic current kinetics, together with a slower activation rate, were observed with the loop D α1(F64C) substitution, known to impair both efficacy and agonist binding, and when the partial agonist THIP (4,5,6,7-tetrahydroisoxazolo[5,4-c]pyridine-3-ol) was used to activate WT or α1(T47R)β2γ2 receptors. Propofol-evoked currents mediated by α1(T47R)β2γ2 and α1(F64C)β2γ2 receptors also exhibited faster deactivation than their WT counterparts, revealing that these substitutions impair gating through a mechanism independent of orthosteric binding. Spontaneous gating caused by the introduction of the β2(L285R) mutation was also reduced in α1(T47R)β2(L285R)γ2 compared to α1β2(L285R)γ2 receptors, confirming that α1(T47R) impairs gating independently of activation by any agonist. These findings implicate movement of the GABAA receptor α1 subunit's β1 strand during agonist-dependent and spontaneous gating. Immobilisation of the β1 strand may provide a mechanism for the inhibition of gating by inverse agonists such as bicuculline.

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