Molecular modeling and mutagenesis of the ligand-binding pocket of the mGlu3 subtype of metabotropic glutamate receptor


Address correspondence and reprint requests to David R. Hampson, University of Toronto, 19 Russell St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2S2. E-mail:


A homology model of the extracellular domain of the mGlu3 subtype of metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptor was generated and tested using site-directed mutagenesis, a radioligand-binding assay using the Group II selective agonist (2S,2′R,3′R)-2-(2′,3′-[3H]dicarboxycyclopropyl) glycine ([3H]DCG-IV), and in a fluorescence-based functional assay in live transiently transfected human embryonic kidney cells. Ten of the 12 mGlu3 mutants (R64A, R68A, Y150A, S151A, T174A, D194A, Y222A, R277A, D301A and K389) showed either no binding or a 90% or greater loss of specific [3H]DCG-IV binding. Several analogous mutations in mGlu2 supported the results obtained with mGlu3. These results demonstrate that the binding of [3H]DCG-IV to mGlu3 is exceptionally sensitive to mutagenesis-induced perturbations. In silico docking of DCG-IV into the agonist binding pocket of mGlu3 facilitated the interpretation the mutagenesis results. Tyrosines 150 and 222, and arginine 277 show close contacts with the third carboxylic acid group in DCG-IV, which is not present in glutamate or (2S,1′S,2′S)-2-(carboxycyclopropyl)glycine (L-CCG-I). Mutation of these three amino acids to alanine resulted in a near complete loss of receptor activation by DCG-IV and retention of near wild-type affinity for L-CCG-I. It is proposed that hydrogen bonding between this carboxylate and tyrosines 150 and 222 and arginine 277 provide a partial explanation for the high affinity and Group II selectivity of DCG-IV. These findings define the essential features of the ligand-binding pocket of mGlu3 and, together with other recent studies on mGlu receptors, provide new opportunities for structure-based drug design.