Di Maio, Danilo; Chandramouli, Balasubramanian; Brancato, Giuseppe
Pathways and Barriers for Ion Translocation through the 5-HT(3)A Receptor Channel
PLOS ONE, 10 Art. No. e0140258, OCT 14 2015

Pentameric ligand gated ion channels (pLGICs) are ionotropic receptors that mediate fast intercellular communications at synaptic level and include either cation selective (e.g., nAChR and 5-HT3) or anion selective (e.g., GlyR, GABAA and GluCl) membrane channels. Among others, 5-HT3 is one of the most studied members, since its first cloning back in 1991, and a large number of studies have successfully pinpointed protein residues critical for its activation and channel gating. In addition, 5-HT3 is also the target of a few pharmacological treatments due to the demonstrated benefits of its modulation in clinical trials. Nonetheless, a detailed molecular analysis of important protein features, such as the origin of its ion selectivity and the rather low conductance as compared to other channel homologues, has been unfeasible until the recent crystallization of the mouse 5-HT(3)A receptor. Here, we present extended molecular dynamics simulations and free energy calculations of the whole 5-HT(3)A protein with the aim of better understanding its ion transport properties, such as the pathways for ion permeation into the receptor body and the complex nature of the selectivity filter. Our investigation unravels previously unpredicted structural features of the 5-HT(3)A receptor, such as the existence of alternative intersubunit pathways for ion translocation at the interface between the extracellular and the transmembrane domains, in addition to the one along the channel main axis. Moreover, our study offers a molecular interpretation of the role played by an arginine triplet located in the intracellular domain on determining the characteristic low conductance of the 5-HT(3)A receptor, as evidenced in previous experiments. In view of these results, possible implications on other members of the superfamily are suggested.


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