Formation of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor binding sites. Academic Article uri icon


  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) are activated by ACh binding to two sites located on different alpha subunits. The two alpha subunits, alpha gamma and alpha delta, are distinguished by their interface with gamma and delta subunits. We have characterized the formation of the ACh binding sites and found, contrary to the current model, that the sites form at different times and in a set order. The first site forms on alpha gamma subunits during the process of subunit assembly. Our data are consistent with the appearance of this site on alpha beta gamma delta subunit tetramers soon after the site for the competitive antagonist alpha-bungarotoxin has formed and delta subunits have assembled with alpha beta gamma trimers. The second site is located on alpha delta subunits and forms after AChR subunits have assembled into alpha2 beta gamma delta pentamers. By determining the order in which the ACh binding sites form, we have also identified the sites in which the delta and second alpha subunits associate during subunit assembly.

publication date

  • August 1, 1998