The focus of this proposal is the nicotinic-receptor superfamily of ion channels. Our long-term goal is to elucidate how the biophysical properties of these receptor-channels shape their function under both normal and pathological conditions. To this end, we will apply a multi-faceted approach that includes single-channel and ensemble electrophysiology, protein engineering, X-ray crystallography and theoretical calculations. Most of the experiments will be conducted on the muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) and its bacterial counterparts, ELIC and GLIC. Because of its large single-channel conductance, robust stoichiometry, tractable kinetics and high expression levels in heterologous expression systems, the muscle AChR remains an unparalleled model for the entire superfamily. Furthermore, throughout the years, research on this particular receptor has provided answers to fundamental questions on the physics, chemistry and biology of ion channels that cannot be addressed with (probably) any other channel. In this application, we propose to address the three pillars of ion-channel function, namely, ion conduction, gating, and modulation of gating. Our three Specific Aims are: 1) To characterize the ring of glutamates in the charge selectivity filter of the AChR in terms of number of total negative charges and acid-base behavior;2) To identify the nature of the gate(s) and its rearrangement upon channel opening, closing and desensitization;and 3) To characterize the regions of the AChR hypothesized to be involved in the metabolic and intramembrane modulation of function. Because of its role as a paradigmatic neurotransmitter-gated ion channel, the knowledge derived from the proposed experiments on the muscle AChR is poised to have a broad impact on our understanding of postsynaptic receptors and fast synaptic transmission in general. It should also be emphasized that AChR-mediated neurotransmission supports not only motor, but also, autonomic and cognitive function. As a result, in addition to being compromised in myasthenic syndromes, cholinergic neurotransmission is also impaired in cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Even more broadly, AChRs are also expressed in the airways, keratinocytes, lymphocytes and endothelial cells where they are mediators of cell differentiation, proliferation and resistance to apoptosis, and hence, of cancer.

Public Health Relevance

The main subject of this research proposal is the biophysical characterization of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. In the central and autonomic nervous system, nicotinic receptors play important roles in learning, memory and the modulation of cardiac function. It follows then a full understanding of not only motor, but also, cardiovascular and cognitive pathological conditions (such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia) requires a thorough knowledge of the molecular underpinnings of these receptors. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that nicotinic receptors are also expressed in the lung, skin, platelets, immune cells and the cells that line the blood vessels, where they mediate cell growth and, eventually, the development of malignant tumors.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-MDCN-J (04))
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Silberberg, Shai D
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Giovanni; Wang, Yuhang; Cymes, Gisela D et al. (2017) Chasing the open-state structure of pentameric ligand-gated ion channels. J Gen Physiol 149:1119-1138
Cymes, Gisela D; Grosman, Claudio (2016) Identifying the elusive link between amino acid sequence and charge selectivity in pentameric ligand-gated ion channels. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:E7106-E7115
Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Giovanni; Grosman, Claudio (2015) The atypical cation-conduction and gating properties of ELIC underscore the marked functional versatility of the pentameric ligand-gated ion-channel fold. J Gen Physiol 146:15-36
Cymes, Gisela D; Grosman, Claudio (2015) Engineered Ionizable Side Chains. Adv Exp Med Biol 869:5-23
Harpole, Tyler J; Grosman, Claudio (2014) Side-chain conformation at the selectivity filter shapes the permeation free-energy landscape of an ion channel. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111:E3196-205
Papke, David; Grosman, Claudio (2014) The role of intracellular linkers in gating and desensitization of human pentameric ligand-gated ion channels. J Neurosci 34:7238-52
Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Giovanni; Cuello, Luis G; Nair, Satish K et al. (2013) Gating of the proton-gated ion channel from Gloeobacter violaceus at pH 4 as revealed by X-ray crystallography. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:18716-21
Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Giovanni; Lukk, Tiit; Agarwal, Vinayak et al. (2012) Mutations that stabilize the open state of the Erwinia chrisanthemi ligand-gated ion channel fail to change the conformation of the pore domain in crystals. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 109:6331-6
Cymes, Gisela D; Grosman, Claudio (2012) The unanticipated complexity of the selectivity-filter glutamates of nicotinic receptors. Nat Chem Biol 8:975-81
Papke, David; Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Giovanni; Grosman, Claudio (2011) Desensitization of neurotransmitter-gated ion channels during high-frequency stimulation: a comparative study of Cys-loop, AMPA and purinergic receptors. J Physiol 589:1571-85

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