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The ionotropic glutamate receptors are localized in the pre- and postsynaptic membrane of neurons in the brain. Activation by the principal excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate allows the ligand binding domain to change conformation, communicating opening of the channel for ion conduction. The free energy of the GluR2 S1S2 ligand binding domain (S1S2) closure transition was computed using a combination of thermodynamic integration and umbrella sampling modeling methods. A path that involves lowering the charge on E705 was chosen to clarify the role of this binding site residue. A continuum electrostatics approach in S1S2 is used to show E705, located in the ligand binding cleft, stabilizes the closed conformation of S1S2 via direct interactions with other protein residues, not through the ligand. In the closed conformation, in the absence of a ligand, S1S2 is somewhat more closed than what has been reported in X-ray structures. A semiopen conformation has been identified which is characterized by disruption of a single cross-cleft interaction and differs only slightly in energy from the fully closed S1S2. The fully open S1S2 conformation exhibits a wide energy well and shares structural similarity with the apo S1S2 crystal structure. Hybrid continuum electrostatics/MD calculations along the chosen closure transition pathway reveal solvation energies, and electrostatic interaction energies between two lobes of the protein increase the relative energetic difference between the open and closed conformational states. By analyzing the role of several cross-cleft contacts as well as other binding site residues, we demonstrate how S1S2 interactions facilitate formation of the closed conformation of the GluR2 ligand binding domain.


Tatyana Mamonova, Michael J Yonkunas, Maria G Kurnikova. Energetics of the cleft closing transition and the role of electrostatic interactions in conformational rearrangements of the glutamate receptor ligand binding domain. Biochemistry. 2008 Oct 21;47(42):11077-85

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PMID: 18823129

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