Fast excitatory synaptic transmission in the mammalian central nervous system is mediated by glutamate-activated α-amino-5-methyl-3-hydroxy-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) receptors. In neurons, AMPA receptors coassemble with transmembrane AMPA receptor regulatory proteins (TARPs). Assembly with TARP γ8 alters the biophysical properties of the receptor, producing resensitization currents in the continued presence of glutamate. Using single-channel recordings, we show that under resensitizing conditions, GluA2 AMPA receptors primarily transition to higher conductance levels, similar to activation of the receptors in the presence of cyclothiazide, which stabilizes the open state. To study the conformation associated with these states, we have used single-molecule FRET and show that this high-conductance state exhibits tighter coupling between subunits in the extracellular parts of the receptor. Furthermore, the dwell times for the transition from the tightly coupled state to the decoupled states correlate to longer open durations of the channels, thus correlating conformation and function at the single-molecule level.
N -methyl- d -aspartate (NMDA) receptors, one of the three main types of ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs), are involved in excitatory synaptic transmission, and their dysfunction is implicated in various neurological disorders. NMDA receptors, heterotetramers typically composed of GluN1 and GluN2 subunits, are the only members of the iGluR family that bind allosteric modulators at their amino-terminal domains (ATDs). We used luminescence resonance energy transfer to characterize the conformational changes the receptor undergoes upon binding ifenprodil, a synthetic compound that specifically inhibits activation of NMDA receptors containing GluN2B. We found that ifenprodil induced an overall closure of the GluN2B ATD without affecting conformation of the GluN1 ATD or the upper lobes of the ATDs, the same mechanism whereby zinc inhibits GluN2A. These data demonstrate that the conformational changes induced by zinc and ifenprodil represent a conserved mechanism of NMDA receptor inhibition. Additionally, we compared the structural mechanism of zinc inhibition of GluN1–GluN2A receptors to that of ifenprodil inhibition of GluN1–GluN2B. The similarities in the conformational changes induced by inhibitor binding suggest a conserved structural mechanism of inhibition independent of the binding site of the modulator.
Transmembrane AMPA receptor (AMPAR) regulatory proteins (TARPs) markedly enhance AMPAR function, altering ligand efficacy and receptor gating kinetics and thereby shaping the postsynaptic response. The structural mechanism underlying TARP effects on gating, however, is unknown. Here we find that the prototypical member of the TARP family, stargazin or γ-2, rescues gating deficits in AMPARs carrying mutations that destabilize the closed-cleft states of the ligand-binding domain (LBD), suggesting that stargazin reverses the effects of these mutations and likely stabilizes closed LBD states. Furthermore, stargazin promotes a more closed conformation of the LBD, as indicated by reduced accessibility to the large antagonist NBQX. Consistent with the functional studies, luminescence resonance energy transfer experiments directly demonstrate that the AMPAR LBD is on average more closed in the presence of stargazin, in both the apo and agonist-bound states. The additional cleft closure and/or stabilization of the more closed-cleft states of the LBD is expected to translate to higher agonist efficacy and could contribute to the structural mechanism for stargazin modulation of AMPAR function.