• Benzodiazepine receptor;
  • Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis;
  • Evolution;
  • Gene duplication;
  • Species variation)

Abstract: The late evolutionary appearance of the benzodiazepine receptor (BZR) allows an experimental approach for evaluation of the qualitative development of its sub-units. Photoaffinity labeling of brain membranes with [3H]flunitrazepam followed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and fluorography offers a suitable method for tracing the qualitative evolution of the BZR. A systematic comparison of the subunit patterns in fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals revealed that the subunit of 53K is phylogenetically the oldest photo-affinity labeled subunit; whereas it is the only band present in the lungfish and most amphibians, additional bands are apparent in higher tetrapods. In fishes, the evolution of the BZR subunits leads to the loss of the 53K subunit. KD values are discussed in relation to specific subunit patterns. Possible explanations for the observed variation of the subunits are discussed, with special emphasis placed on the possible evolution by gene duplication and subsequent divergence.