Dose-response relations for unnatural amino acids at the agonist binding site of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor: tests with novel side chains and with several agonists
Structure-function relations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor are probed using a recently developed method based on chemical synthesis of nonsense suppressor tRNAs with unnatural amino acid residues, site-directed incorporation at nonsense codons in Xenopus laevis oocytes, and electrophysiological measurements. A broad range of unnatural amino acids, as many as 14 at a given site, are incorporated at three sites, alpha 93, alpha 190, and alpha 198, all of which are tyrosine in the wild-type receptor and are thought to contribute to the agonist binding site. Confirming and expanding upon earlier studies using conventional mutagenesis, the three tyrosines are shown to be in substantially different structural microenvironments. In particular, a crucial role is established for the hydroxyl group of alpha Tyr93, whereas a variety of substituents are functional at the analogous position of alpha Tyr198. Interestingly, consideration of three different agonists (acetylcholine, nicotine, and tetramethylammonium) does not discriminate between these two best-characterized binding site residues. In addition, double-mutation studies establish the independent effects of mutations at the pore region (second transmembrane region) and at the agonist binding site, and this observation leads to a novel strategy for adjusting EC₅₀ values. These results establish the broad generality and great potential of the unnatural amino acid methodology for illuminating subtle structural distinctions in neuroreceptors and related integral membrane proteins.
© 1996 by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Received June 10, 1996; Accepted August 3, 1996. This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (Grants NS34407 and NS11756) and by the Beckman Institute at Caltech. We thank Dr. Margaret E. Saks and Dr. Jeffrey R. Sampson for providing T7 polymerase and helpful advice.