Indexed on: 19 Jun '13Published on: 19 Jun '13Published in: Journal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design
5-hydroxytryptamine type-3 receptor (5-HT₃), an important target of many neuroactive drugs, is a cation selective transmembrane pentamer whose functional stoichiometries and subunit arrangements are still debated, due to the extreme complexity of the system. The three dimensional structure of the 5-HT₃R subunits has not been solved so far. Moreover, most of the available structural and functional data is related to the extracellular ligand-binding domain, whereas the transmembrane and the intracellular receptor domains are far less characterised, although they are crucial for receptor function. Here, for the first time, 3D homology models of the transmembrane and the intracellular receptor domains of all the known human 5-HT₃ subunits have been built and assembled into homopentameric (5-HT(3A)R, 5-HT(3B)R, 5-HT(3C)R, 5-HT(3D)R and 5-HT(3E)R) and heteropentameric receptors (5-HT(3AB), 5-HT(3AC), 5-HT(3AD) and 5-HT(3AE)), on the basis of the known three-dimensional structures of the nicotinic-acetylcholine receptor and of the ligand gated channel from Erwinia chrysanthemi. The comparative analyses of sequences, modelled structures, and computed electrostatic properties of the single subunits and of the assembled pentamers shed new light both on the stoichiometric composition and on the physicochemical requirements of the functional receptors. In particular, it emerges that a favourable environment for the crossing of the pore at the transmembrane and intracellular C terminus domain levels by Ca²⁺ ions is granted by the maximum presence of two B subunits in the 5-HT₃ pentamer.