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Sunday, June 28, 2009

A discrete alcohol pocket involved in GIRK channel activation
Nature Neuroscience Published online: 28 June 2009

Ethanol modifies neural activity in the brain by modulating ion channels. Ethanol activates G protein–gated inwardly rectifying K+ channels, but the molecular mechanism is not well understood.

Here, we used a crystal structure of a mouse inward rectifier containing a bound alcohol and structure-based mutagenesis to probe a putative alcohol-binding pocket located in the cytoplasmic domains of GIRK channels. Substitutions with bulkier side-chains in the alcohol-binding pocket reduced or eliminated activation by alcohols. By contrast, alcohols inhibited constitutively open channels, such as IRK1 or GIRK2 engineered to strongly bind PIP2. Mutations in the hydrophobic alcohol-binding pocket of these channels had no effect on alcohol-dependent inhibition, suggesting an alternate site is involved in inhibition.

Comparison of high-resolution structures of inwardly rectifying K+ channels suggests a model for activation of GIRK channels using this hydrophobic alcohol-binding pocket.

These results provide a tool for developing therapeutic compounds that could mitigate the effects of alcohol.A discrete alcohol pocket involved in GIRK channel activation

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