Role of the ρ1 GABAC Receptor N-Terminus in Assembly, Trafficking and Function.

Wong LW, Tae HS, Cromer BA.
ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014 Oct 27


The GABAC receptor and closely related GABAA receptor are members of the pentameric ligand-gated ion channels (pLGICs) superfamily and mediate inhibitory fast synaptic transmission in the nervous system. Each pLGIC subunit comprises an N-terminal extracellular agonist-binding domain followed by a channel domain and a variable intracellular domain. Available structural information shows that the core of the agonist-binding domain is a β sandwich of ten β-strands, which form the agonist-binding pocket at the subunit interface. This β-sandwich is preceded by an N-terminal α-helix in eukaryotic structures but not in prokaryotic structures. The N-terminal α-helix has been shown to be functionally essential in α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Sequence analysis of GABAC and GABAA receptors predicts an α-helix in a similar position but preceded by 8 to 46 additional residues, of unknown function, which we term the N-terminal extension. To test the functional role of both the N-terminal extension and the putative N-terminal α-helix in the ρ1 GABAC receptor, we created a series of deletions from the N-terminus. The N-terminal extension was not functionally essential, but its removal did reduce both cell surface expression and cooperativity of agonist-gated channel function. Further deletion of the putative N-terminal α-helix abolished receptor function by preventing cell-surface expression. Our results further demonstrate the essential role of the N-terminal α-helix in the assembly and trafficking of eukaryotic pLGICs. They also provide evidence that the N-terminal extension, although not essential, contributes to receptor assembly, trafficking and conformational changes associated with ligand gating.