Spectroscopic and functional investigations of the AMPA subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptors

Kimberly Anne Mankiewicz, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Ion channels play a crucial role in the functioning of different systems of the body because of their ability to bridge the cell membrane and allow ions to pass in and out of the cell. Ionotropic glutamate receptors are one class of these important proteins and have been shown to be critical in propagating synaptic transmission in the central nervous system and in other diverse functions throughout the body. Because of their wide-ranging effects, this family of receptors is an important target for structure-function investigations to understand their mechanism of action. α-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors are one subtype of glutamate receptors and have been shown to be the primary receptors involved in rapid excitatory signaling in the central nervous system. Agonist binding to the extracellular ligand binding domain of these receptors causes various conformational changes that culminate in formation of the ion channel. Previous structural investigations have provided important information about their mechanism of action, including uncovering a relationship between the degree of cleft closure in the binding domain and activation of the receptor. However, what question remains unanswered is how specific interactions between the agonist and the protein interplay with cleft closure to mediate receptor activation. To investigate this question, I applied a multiscale approach to investigate the effects of agonist binding on various levels. Vibrational spectroscopy was utilized to investigate molecular-level interactions in the binding pocket, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) was employed to measure cleft closure in the isolated ligand binding domain. The results of these studies in the isolated binding domain were then correlated to activation of the full receptor. These investigations showed a relationship between the strength of the interaction at the α-amine group of the agonist and extent of receptor activation, where a stronger interaction correlated to a larger activation, which was upheld even when the extent of cleft closure did not correlate to activation. These results show that this interaction at the α-amine group is critical in mediating the allosteric mechanism of activation and provide a bit more insight into how agonist binding is coupled to channel gating in AMPA receptors.

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Recommended Citation

Mankiewicz, Kimberly Anne, "Spectroscopic and functional investigations of the AMPA subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptors" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3318660.