Analysis of rare variations reveals roles of amino acid residues in the N-terminal extracellular domain of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) alpha6 subunit in the functional expression of human alpha6*-nAChRs
BackgroundFunctional heterologous expression of naturally-expressed and apparently functional mammalian α6*-nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs; where ‘*’ indicates presence of additional subunits) has been difficult. Here we wanted to investigate the role of N-terminal domain (NTD) residues of human (h) nAChR α6 subunit in the functional expression of hα6*-nAChRs. To this end, instead of adopting random mutagenesis as a tool, we used 15 NTD rare variations (i.e., Ser43Pro, Asn46Lys, Asp57Asn, Arg87Cys, Asp92Glu, Arg96His, Glu101Lys, Ala112Val, Ser156Arg, Asn171Lys, Ala184Asp, Asp199Tyr, Asn203Thr, Ile226Thr and Ser233Cys) in nAChR hα6 subunit to probe for their effect on the functional expression of hα6*-nAChRs.ResultsN-terminal α-helix (Asp57); complementary face/inner β-fold (Arg87 or Asp92) and principal face/outer β-fold (Ser156 or Asn171) residues in the hα6 subunit are crucial for functional expression of the hα6*-nAChRs as variations in these residues reduce or abrogate the function of hα6hβ2*-, hα6hβ4- and hα6hβ4hβ3-nAChRs. While variations at residues Ser43 or Asn46 (both in N-terminal α-helix) in hα6 subunit reduce hα6hβ2*-nAChRs function those at residues Arg96 (β2-β3 loop), Asp199 (loop F) or Ser233 (β10-strand) increase hα6hβ2*-nAChR function. Similarly substitution of NTD α-helix (Asn46), loop F (Asp199), loop A (Ala112), loop B (Ala184), or loop C (Ile226) residues in hα6 subunit increase the function of hα6hβ4-nAChRs. All other variations in hα6 subunit do not affect the function of hα6hβ2*- and hα6hβ4*-nAChRs. Incorporation of nAChR hβ3 subunits always increase the function of wild-type or variant hα6hβ4-nAChRs except for those of hα6(D57N, S156R, R87C or N171K)hβ4-nAChRs. It appears Asp57Lys, Ser156Arg or Asn171Lys variations in hα6 subunit drive the hα6hβ4hβ3-nAChRs into a nonfunctional state as at spontaneously open hα6(D57N, S156R or N171K)hβ4hβ3V9’S-nAChRs (V9’S; transmembrane II 9’ valine-to-serine mutation) agonists act as antagonists. Agonist sensitivity of hα6hβ4- and/or hα6hβ4hβ3-nAChRs is nominally increased due to Arg96His, Ala184Asp, Asp199Tyr or Ser233Cys variation in hα6 subunit.ConclusionsHence investigating functional consequences of natural variations in nAChR hα6 subunit we have discovered additional bases for cell surface functional expression of various subtypes of hα6*-nAChRs. Variations (Asp57Asn, Arg87Cys, Asp92Glu, Ser156Arg or Asn171Lys) in hα6 subunit that compromise hα6*-nAChR function are expected to contribute to individual differences in responses to smoked nicotine.
[…] Human nAChR α (α1- α7, α9, α10) subunits or nAChR α6 subunits from various organisms were aligned using ClustalW and then edited for the purposes of presentation (Figure ). A homology model of the human nAChR α6 subunit modeled on the 3-D coordinates of the muscle nAChR α subunit of Torpedo marmorata (PDB: 2BG9.A)  was retrieved using SWISS-MODEL  protein modeling server; and subsequently was rendered using UCSF Chimera (http://www.cgl.ucsf.edu/chimera/), a program for interactive visualization and analysis of molecular structures (Figure ). […]
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