Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are G protein coupled receptors that play important roles in synaptic plasticity and other neuro-physiological and pathological processes. Allosteric mGluR ligands are particularly promising drug targets because of their modulatory effects - enhancing or suppressing the response of mGluRs to glutamate. The mechanism by which this modulation occurs is not known. Here, we propose the hypothesis that positive and negative modulators will differentially stabilize the active and inactive conformations of the receptors, respectively. To test this hypothesis, we have generated computational models of the transmembrane regions of different mGluR subtypes in two different conformations. The inactive conformation was modeled using the crystal structure of the inactive, dark state of rhodopsin as template and the active conformation was created based on a recent model of the light-activated state of rhodopsin. Ligands for which the nature of their allosteric effects on mGluRs is experimentally known were docked to the modeled mGluR structures using ArgusLab and Autodock softwares. We find that the allosteric ligand binding pockets of mGluRs are overlapping with the retinal binding pocket of rhodopsin, and that ligands have strong preferences for the active and inactive states depending on their modulatory nature. In 8 out of 14 cases (57%), the negative modulators bound the inactive conformations with significant preference using both docking programs, and 6 out of 9 cases (67%), the positive modulators bound the active conformations. Considering results by the individual programs only, even higher correlations were observed: 12/14 (86%) and 8/9 (89%) for ArgusLab and 10/14 (71%) and 7/9 (78%) for AutoDock. These findings strongly support the hypothesis that mGluR allosteric modulation occurs via stabilization of different conformations analogous to those identified in rhodopsin where they are induced by photochemical isomerization of the retinal ligand - despite the extensive differences in sequences between mGluRs and rhodopsin.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Structural Biology
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Applied Mathematics