Life at the Top: The Transition State of AChR Gating

Science's STKE  24 Jun 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 188, pp. re11
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.188.re11

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This STKE review describes the mechanisms by which receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine change conformation to allow information from the presynaptic neuron to be conveyed to the postsynaptic cell. Cells in the nervous system communicate by means of chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, at the synapse. Neurotransmitter binding to a ligand-gated channel on the postsynaptic cell triggers a conformational change, called gating, that allows ions to flow through the channel. In the neuromuscular acetylcholine receptor channel, gating involves a wave of small conformational changes that propagates from the neurotransmitter binding site throughout the channel during the transition from the closed to the open state, rather than an all-or-nothing switch in which all parts of the protein move synchronously from "closed" to "open." This review contains seven figures, 37 references, and one animation.