Epibatidine binds with unique site and state selectivity to muscle nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Richard J. Prince, Steven M. Sine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Ligand binding sites in fetal (α2βγδ) and adult (α2βδε) muscle acetylcholine receptors are formed by αδ, αγ, or αε subunit pairs. Each type of binding site shows unique ligand selectivity due to different contributions by the δ, γ, or ε subunits. The present study compares epibatidine and carbamylcholine binding in terms of their site and state selectivities for muscle receptors expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells. Measurements of binding to αγ, αδ, and αε intracellular complexes reveal opposite site selectivities between epibatidine and carbamylcholine; for epibatidine the rank order of affinities is αε > αγ > αδ, whereas for carbamylcholine the rank order is αδ αε ≃ > αγ. Because the relative affinities of intracellular complexes resemble those of receptors in the closed activable state, the results suggest that epibatidine binds with unique site selectivity in activating the muscle receptor. Measurements of binding at equilibrium show that both enantiomers of epibatidine bind to adult and fetal receptors with shallow but monophasic binding curves. However, when receptors are fully desensitized, epibatidine binds in a biphasic manner, with dissociation constants of the two components differing by more than 170-fold. Studies of subunit-omitted receptors (α2βδ2, α2βγ2, and α2βε2) reveal that in the desensitized state, the αδ interface forms the low affinity epibatidine site, whereas the αγ and αε interfaces form high affinity sites. In contrast to epibatidine, carbamylcholine shows little site selectivity for desensitized fetal or adult receptors. Thus epibatidine is a potentially valuable probe of acetylcholine receptor binding site structure and of elements that confer state-dependent selectivities of the binding the sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7843-7849
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 3 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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