The glycine receptor is a pentameric ligand-gated ion channel that is involved in fast inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. Zinc is an allosteric modulator of glycine receptor function, enhancing the effects of glycine at nanomolar to low-micromolar concentrations and inhibiting its effects at higher concentrations. Low-nanomolar concentrations of contaminating zinc in electrophysiological buffers are capable of synergistically enhancing receptor modulation by other compounds, such as ethanol. This suggests that, unless accounted for, previous studies of glycine receptor modulation were measuring the effects of modulator plus comodulation by zinc on receptor function. Since zinc is present in vivo at a variety of concentrations, it will influence glycine receptor modulation by other pharmacologic agents. We investigated the utility of previously described “zinc-enhancement–insensitive” α1 glycine receptor mutants D80A, D80G, and W170S to probe for interactions between zinc and other allosteric modulators at the glycine receptor. We found that only the W170S mutation conferred complete abolishment of zinc enhancement across a variety of agonist and zinc concentrations. Using α1 W170S receptors, we established that, in addition to ethanol, zinc interacts with inhalants, but not volatile anesthetics, to synergistically enhance channel function. Additionally, we determined that this interaction is abolished at higher zinc concentrations when receptor-enhancing binding sites are saturated, suggesting a mechanism by which modulators such as ethanol and inhalants are capable of increasing receptor affinity for zinc, in addition to enhancing channel function on their own.
- Received November 23, 2016.
- Accepted January 12, 2017.
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism [Grant 5P01AA020683].
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics