Overstimulation of ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs), including AMPA receptors contributes to a number of neurodegenerative diseases, notably stroke and epilepsy. Thus, these receptors are drug targets of considerable therapeutic value. However, they are not simple targets since iGluRs also have essential roles in brain development and normal neuronal processes including learning and memory. Our goal is to investigate the structural basis of AMPA receptor function to develop a clearer understanding of how AMPA receptor-channels activate and desensitize. iGluRs are tetramers of similar subunits and each subunit is made up of a set of modules including the ligand binding domain (LBD) that is the focus of our structure-function studies. A full crystal structure of an AMPA receptor provides the framework for studying molecular interactions in the holoreceptor, but the receptor LBD is a particularly useful model system as it can be produced in bacteria as a soluble protein, and it binds agonists and antagonists with approximately the same affinity as the intact receptor. We have previously determined crystal structures of the GluA2 and GluA3 subtypes of AMPA receptor LBD bound to agonists, antagonists, and allosteric modulators, and, using NMR spectroscopy, examined the dynamic behavior of the GluA2 LBD in the presence of full and partial agonists. We have characterized the complex kinetic behavior of wildtype GluA3 AMPA receptors in single channel studies and generated mutations in the LBD of GluA3 receptor-channels that affect channel activation and gating properties. We propose to combine X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, small angle X-ray scattering, single channel recording, isothermal titration calorimetry, and rapid drug application to multi-channel patches to investigate two aspects of GluA2 and GluA3 gating.
The first aim i nvolves the transmission of the signal from the binding site to the channel domain. Our NMR studies suggest that Lobe 2 of LBD has considerable dynamics and electrostatic interactions are required to maintain a rigid structure. Mutations at residues affecting these interactions will be analyzed by NMR (sidechain dyanmics and H/D exchange) and the functional consequences will be analyzed by single channel and multi-channel patch recording. The hypothesis is that several discrete interactions are necessary for efficient activation of the channel and for the unique kinetics of AMPA receptors relative to other glutamate receptor subtypes.
The second aim builds on our work on allosteric modulators of AMPA receptors and will investigate the binding mechanism and the steps in the reaction mechanism that are modified by these agents. Although homomeric receptors are likely to be confined to a small number of neurons, GluA2/GluA3 heteromeric receptor-channels may represent a significant number of postsynaptic AMPA receptors in the neocortex. The results from these experiments will shed light on the structure and function of an important glutamate receptor and provide essential information for further drug development.
Over-activity of AMPA receptors, which mediate the majority of excitatory synaptic transmission in the CNS, has been implicated in contributing to the pathological effects of stroke and epilepsy, and enhancement of the activity of AMPA receptors has been shown to be beneficial in increasing cognition. The goal of these studies is to understand the structure, function and dynamics of medically relevant AMPA receptors (GluA2 and GluA3) both in terms of the mechanisms associated with channel activation and desensitization as well as the structural correlates of the complex channel activity. These studies are important for expanding the targets on these receptors for drug design as well as understanding and modeling synaptic activity.