Editors' ChoiceStructural Biology

Activating a Receptor to Excite a Neuron

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Science Signaling  02 Sep 2014:
Vol. 7, Issue 341, pp. ec239
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2005853

Synaptic transmission between nerve cells is critical to processes such as learning and memory. At glutamatergic synapses, fast transmission occurs when glutamate is released from the presynaptic neuron and binds to ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs), thus stimulating the transient opening of the iGluR channel and activating the postsynaptic neuron. Chen et al. and Yelshanskaya et al. report crystal structures in a range of conformations that together provide insight into how glutamate binding causes the channel to open and how other molecules that bind to the receptor modulate this. The information could aid in the design of drugs to treat cognitive impairment or seizure disorders.

L. Chen, K. L. Dürr, E. Gouaux, X-ray structures of AMPA receptor–cone snail toxin complexes illuminate activation mechanism. Science 345, 1021–1026 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]

M. V. Yelshanskaya, M. Li, A. I. Sobolevsky, Structure of an agonist-bound ionotropic glutamate receptor. Science 345, 1070–1074 (2014). [Abstract] [Full Text]