Nature 2005 Nov;438(7065):248-52
Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1GA, UK.
5-hydroxytryptamine type 3 (5-HT3) receptors are members of the Cys-loop receptor superfamily. Neurotransmitter binding in these proteins triggers the opening (gating) of an ion channel by means of an as-yet-uncharacterized conformational change. Here we show that a specific proline (Pro 8*), located at the apex of the loop between the second and third transmembrane helices (M2-M3), can link binding to gating through a cis-trans isomerization of the protein backbone. Using unnatural amino acid mutagenesis, a series of proline analogues with varying preference for the cis conformer was incorporated at the 8* position. Proline analogues that strongly favour the trans conformer produced non-functional channels. Among the functional mutants there was a strong correlation between the intrinsic cis-trans energy gap of the proline analogue and the activation of the channel, suggesting that cis-trans isomerization of this single proline provides the switch that interconverts the open and closed states of the channel. Consistent with this proposal, nuclear magnetic resonance studies on an M2-M3 loop peptide reveal two distinct, structured forms. Our results thus confirm the structure of the M2-M3 loop and the critical role of Pro 8* in the 5-HT3 receptor. In addition, they suggest that a molecular rearrangement at Pro 8* is the structural mechanism that opens the receptor pore.