Structure and function of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

The subject of this thesis is the study of the structure and function of the human muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), which is a typical member of the large class of ligand-gated ion channels. Appropriate techniques, like site-directed mutagenesis, patch-clamp and fluorescence microscopy, and combinations thereof, were applied to gain insight into selected aspects of the structure-function relationship of this receptor. Special emphasis was put on the investigation of single receptors, wherever this promised scientific benefit. Experiments with the aim to study structural rearrangements of nAChR upon ligand binding by fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) were undertaken. Such intramolecular motions are expected to link ligand binding to channel gating and are therefore fundamental to understand the function of nAChR. Double-cysteine mutants were produced and receptors were labelled on living cells in order to measure changes in FRET efficiency due to ligand binding. A novel class of functionally modified ligands for the nAChR was characterized by patch-clamp technique. Derivatives that carry a thiol-reactive group were shown to be full and very potent agonists. On the bases of a structural model of the binding site, residues were selected, that are likely to be in contact with the bound ligand. Equivalent single-cysteine mutants were produced to covalently bind these agonists and thereby to gain information about the mechanisms of ligand binding and receptor activation. Ligands that were coupled to fluorophores turned out to be either partial or full agonists with nanomolar efficacies for the nAChR. Their use to study the diffusion of single nAChR on living HEK293-cells for different functional states is described in detail. The dependency of the lateral diffusion on the activation state (closed/opened/desensitized) was studied. Additionally these ligands served to demonstrate the feasibility to simultaneously combine patch-clamp and fluorescent binding experiments on a single-molecule level. Acetylcholine receptors carrying a single point-mutation, related to the congenital myasthenic syndrome, were found to stabilize an intermediate conductance state and were studied in detail by single-channel electrophysiology. The dependency of the gating behavior on different ligands, ligand concentration and transmembrane voltage was investigated. Mutants, carrying equivalent mutations on different subunits were produced to reveal the origin of this effect. Quantitative characterization was obtained by dwell-time and spectral noise-analysis, in order to gain insight on sub-millisecond fluctuations of the channel lining transmembrane regions of the nAChR and the gating mechanism in general.

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 3366 (2005)
    Section de chimie et génie chimique
    Faculté des sciences de base
    Institut des sciences et ingénierie chimiques
    Laboratoire de chimie physique des polymères et membranes
    Jury: Pierre-Jean Corringer, Rudolf Hovius, Kai Johnsson, Antoine Triller, Pierre Vogel

    Public defense: 2005-11-18


    Record created on 2005-10-12, modified on 2016-08-08


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