The intrinsic electrostatic potential and the intermediate ring of charge in the acetylcholine receptor channel

Gary G. Wilson, Juan M. Pascual, Natasja Brooijmans, Diana Murray, Arthur Karlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


A ring of aligned glutamate residues named the intermediate ring of charge surrounds the intracellular end of the acetylcholine receptor channel and dominates cation conduction (Imoto et al., 1988). Four of the five subunits in mouse-muscle acetylcholine receptor contribute a glutamate to the ring. These glutamates were mutated to glutamine or lysine, and combinations of mutant and native subunits, yielding net ring charges of -1 to -4, were expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes. In all complexes, the α subunit contained a Cys substituted for αThr244, three residues away from the ring glutamate αGlu241. The rate constants for the reactions of αThr244Cys with the neutral 2-hydroxyethyl-methanethiosulfonate, the positively charged 2-ammonioethyl-methanethiosulfonate, and the doubly positively charged 2-ammonioethyl-2'-ammonioethanethiosulfonate were determined from the rates of irreversible inhibition of the responses to acetylcholine. The reagents were added in the presence and absence of acetylcholine and at various transmembrane potentials, and the rate constants were extrapolated to zero transmembrane potential. The intrinsic electrostatic potential in the channel in the vicinity of the ring of charge was estimated from the ratios of the rate constants of differently charged reagents. In the acetylcholine-induced open state, this potential was -230 mV with four glutamates in the ring and increased linearly towards 0 mV by +57 mV for each negative charge removed from the ring. Thus, the intrinsic electrostatic potential in the narrow, intracellular end of the open channel is almost entirely due to the intermediate ring of charge and is strongly correlated with alkali-metal-ion conductance through the channel. The intrinsic electrostatic potential in the closed state of the channel was more positive than in the open state at all values of the ring charge. These electrostatic properties were simulated by theoretical calculations based on a simplified model of the channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 26 2000


  • Conductance
  • Mutagenesis
  • Nicotinic
  • Reaction kinetics
  • Selectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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