Identification and characterization of a G protein-binding cluster in {alpha}7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors [Neurobiology]

June 18th, 2015 by King, J. R., Nordman, J. C., Bridges, S. P., Lin, M.-K., Kabbani, N.

α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) play an important role in synaptic transmission and inflammation. In response to ligands, this receptor channel opens to conduct cations into the cell but desensitizes rapidly. In recent studies we show that α7 nAChRs bind intracellular signaling proteins such as heterotrimeric GTP binding proteins (G proteins). Here, we demonstrate that direct coupling of α7 nAChRs to G proteins enables a downstream calcium signaling response that can persist beyond the expected time course of channel activation. This process depends on a G protein-binding cluster (GPBC) within the M3-M4 loop of the receptor. A mutation of the GPBC in the α7 nAChR (α7345-348A) abolishes interaction with Gαq as well as Gβγ while having no effect on the synthesis, cell-surface trafficking, or α-bungarotoxin binding of the receptor. Expression of α7345-348A, however, did significantly attenuate the α7 nAChR induced Gαq calcium signaling response as evidenced by a decrease in PLC-β activation and IP3R mediated calcium store release in the presence of the α7 selective agonist choline. Taken together, the data provides new evidence for the existence of a GPBC in nAChRs serving to promote intracellular signaling.