Solution NMR of acetylcholine binding protein reveals agonist-mediated conformational change of the C-Loop

Fan Gao, Georges Mer, Marco Tonelli, Scott B. Hansen, Thomas P. Burghardt, Palmer Taylor, Steven M. Sine

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34 Scopus citations


Previous X-ray crystallography, molecular dynamics simulation, fluorescence spectroscopy, and deuterium-hydrogen exchange of acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) suggest that after binding of the agonist, the C-loop at the periphery of the binding site draws inward to cap the site and envelop the agonist. In this study, we use high-resolution solution NMR to monitor changes in the chemical environment of the C-loop without and with acetylcholine (ACh) bound. Substitution of [15N]cysteine for the native cysteines 123, 136, 187, and 188 provided intrinsic monitors of the chemical environments of the Cys- and C-loops, respectively. Two-dimensional transverse relaxation-optimized spectroscopy 15N-1H HSQC spectroscopy of apo-AChBP revealed seven well resolved cross-peaks for the group of cysteines. The spectrum of AChBP with Ser substituted for Cys 187 and 188 shows only two main cross-peaks, corresponding to Cys 123 and 136 from the Cys-loop, enabling resonance assignments. After binding of ACh, the five cross-peaks associated with cysteines from the C-loop condense into two predominant cross-peaks not observed in the spectrum from the apo protein, indicating a restricted range of conformations and change in chemical environment of the C-loop. The results show that isotopic cysteine can be incorporated into specified positions of AChBP expressed from a eukaryotic source, that the C-loop assumes multiple conformations without ACh, but that its conformation becomes restricted with ACh bound. The collective findings suggest a structural mechanism for agonist recognition in AChBP and related Cys-loop receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1235
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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