A role for loop F in modulating GABA binding affinity in the GABA A receptor

Timothy S. Carpenter, Edmond Y Lau, Felice C Lightstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The brain's major inhibitory neuroreceptor is the ligand-gated ion channel γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) type A receptor (GABAR). GABARs exist in a variety of different subunit combinations that act to modulate the physiological behavior of GABAR by altering its pharmacological profile, as well as its affinity for GABA. While the α 1β 2γ 2 subtype is one of the most prevalent GABARs, the less populous α 6β 3δ subtype has much higher GABA sensitivity. Previous studies identified residues crucial for GABA binding; however, the specific molecular differences responsible for this diverse sensitivity are not known. Furthermore, the role of loop F is a divisive subject, with conflicting evidence for ligand binding function. Using homology modeling, ligand docking, and molecular dynamics simulations, we investigated the GABA binding sites of the two receptor subtypes. Simulations identified seven residues that consistently interacted with GABA in both subtypes: αF65, αR132, βL99, βE155, βR/K196, βY205, and βR207. Residue substitution at position β196 (arginine in α 6β 3δ, lysine in α 1β 2γ 2) resulted in a shift in GABA binding. However, the major difference between the two binding sites was the magnitude of loop F involvement, with a greater contribution in the α 6β 3δ receptor. Free energy calculations confirm that the α 6β 3δ binding pocket has an increased affinity for GABA. Thus, the possible role for loop F across the GABAR family is to modulate GABA affinity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-323
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 14 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • ligand docking
  • ligand-gated ion channel
  • molecular dynamics
  • neuroreceptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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