Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark (FBL) is published by IMR Press from Volume 26 Issue 5 (2021). Previous articles were published by another publisher on a subscription basis, and they are hosted by IMR Press on imrpress.com as a courtesy and upon agreement with Frontiers in Bioscience.
Molecular biology of the GABAA receptor: functional domains implicated by mutational analysis
GABAA receptors are the major inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in mammalian brain. They belong to a family of ligand-gated ion channels that also includes the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, glycine receptors and 5HT3 receptors. Each receptor in the family is believed to be a pentamer of homologous subunits that assemble to form a central transmembrane ion pore which, in the case of the GABA(A) receptor, is anion-selective. For almost twenty years, there has been tremendous interest in the structure and function of GABA(A) receptors, not only because of their importance in regulating brain excitability but also because these proteins are the specific targets for a wide variety of therapeutic agents including the anxiolytic benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Molecular cloning has revealed that GABAA receptors are heterogeneous, being formed by combinations of different isoforms of several subunit classes (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). The physiological and pharmacological properties of individual GABAA receptor subtypes appear to depend on their precise subunit complement. In this review, we focus on the application of modern techniques in molecular biology, particularly mutational analysis, to identify structural domains of these receptors that are important for ligand recognition and receptor function.