Document Type


Publication Date

March 2002


Ion channels alternate stochastically between two functional states, open and closed. This gating behavior is controlled by membrane potential or by the binding of neurotransmitters in voltage- and ligand-gated channels, respectively. Although much progress has been made in defining the structure and function of the ligand-binding cores and the voltage sensors, how these domains couple to channel opening remains poorly understood. Here we show that the M3 transmembrane segments of the NMDA receptor allosterically interact with both the ligand-binding cores and the channel gate. It is proposed that M3 functions as a transduction element whose conformational change couples ligand binding with channel opening. Furthermore, amino acid homology between glutamate receptor M3 segments and the equivalent S6 or TM2 segments in K(+) channels suggests that ion channel activation and gating are both structurally and functionally conserved.