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    Curariform alkaloids competitively inhibit muscle acetylcholine receptors (AChR) by bridging the alpha and non-alpha subunits that form the ligand-binding site. Here we delineate bound orientations of d-tubocurarine (d-TC) and its methylated derivative metocurine using mutagenesis, ligand binding measurements, and computational methods. When tested against a series of lysine mutations in the epsilon subunit, the two antagonists show marked differences in the consequences of the mutations on binding affinity. The mutations epsilon L117K, epsilon Y111K, and epsilon L109K decrease affinity of metocurine by up to 3 orders of magnitude but only slightly alter affinity of d-TC. At the alpha subunit face of the binding site, the mutation alpha Y198T decreases affinity of both antagonists, but alpha Y198F preferentially enhances affinity of d-TC. Computation of antagonist docking orientations, based on our structural model of the alpha-epsilon site of the human AChR, indicates distinct orientations of each antagonist; the flatter metocurine fits into a pocket formed principally by the epsilon subunit, whereas the more compact d-TC spans the narrower crevasse between alpha and epsilon subunits. The side chains of epsilon Tyr-111 and epsilon Thr-117 juxtapose one of two quaternary nitrogens in metocurine but are remote from the equivalent quaternary nitrogen in d-TC, which instead closely approaches alpha Tyr-198. The different docked orientations arise through tilt of the curariform scaffold by approximately 60 degrees normal to the nitrogen-nitrogen axis, together with a 20 degrees rotation about the axis. The overall mutagenesis and computational results show that despite their similar structures, d-TC and metocurine bind in distinctly different orientations to the adult human AChR.


    Hai-Long Wang, Fan Gao, Nina Bren, Steven M Sine. Curariform antagonists bind in different orientations to the nicotinic receptor ligand binding domain. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2003 Aug 22;278(34):32284-91

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    PMID: 12799358

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