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Allosteric regulation in NMDA receptors revealed by the genetically encoded photo-cross-linkers

TitleAllosteric regulation in NMDA receptors revealed by the genetically encoded photo-cross-linkers
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsTian, M, Ye-Lehmann, S
JournalScientific Reports
Date Published2016
ISBN Number2045-2322

Allostery is essential to neuronal receptor function, but its transient nature poses a challenge for characterization. The N-terminal domains (NTDs) distinct from ligand binding domains are a major locus for allosteric regulation of NMDA receptors (NMDARs), where different modulatory binding sites have been observed. The inhibitor ifenprodil, and related phenylethanoamine compounds specifically targeting GluN1/GluN2B NMDARs have neuroprotective activity. However, whether they use differential structural pathways than the endogenous inhibitor Zn(2+) for regulation is unknown. We applied genetically encoded unnatural amino acids (Uaas) and monitored the functional changes in living cells with photo-cross-linkers specifically incorporated at the ifenprodil binding interface between GluN1 and GluN2B subunits. We report constraining the NTD domain movement, by a light induced crosslinking bond that introduces minimal perturbation to the ligand binding, specifically impedes the transduction of ifenprodil but not Zn(2+) inhibition. Subtle distance changes reveal interfacial flexibility and NTD rearrangements in the presence of modulators. Our results present a much richer dynamic picture of allostery than conventional approaches targeting the same interface, and highlight key residues that determine functional and subtype specificity of NMDARs. The light-sensitive mutant neuronal receptors provide complementary tools to the photo-switchable ligands for opto-neuropharmacology.

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