We have constructed a molecular model of the ligand-binding domain of the GABA(C) receptor, which is a member of the Cys-loop ligand-gated ion channel family. The extracellular domains of these receptors share similar sequence homology (20%) with Limnaea acetylcholine-binding protein for which an X-ray crystal structure is available. We used this structure as a template for homology modeling of the GABA(C) receptor extracellular domain using FUGUE and MODELLER software. FlexX was then used to dock GABA into the receptor ligand-binding site, resulting in three alternative energetically favorable orientations. Residues located no more than 5 A from the docked GABA were identified for each model; of these, three were found to be common to all models with 14 others present only in certain models. Using data from experimental studies, we propose that the most likely orientation of GABA is with its amine close to Y198, and its carboxylate close to R104. These studies have therefore provided a model of the ligand-binding domain, which will be useful for both GABA(C) and GABA(A) receptor studies, and have also yielded an experimentally testable hypothesis of the location of GABA in the binding pocket. [Figure: see text].
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