Molecular analysis of the site for 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) on the β2 subunit of GABAA receptors


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Erwin Sigel, Bühlstr. 28, Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail:


2-arachidonyl glycerol (2-AG) allosterically potentiates GABAA receptors via a binding site located in transmembrane segment M4 of the β2 subunit. Two amino acid residues have been described that are essential for this effect. With the aim to further describe this potential drug target, we performed a cysteine scanning of the entire M4 and part of M3. All four residues in M4 affecting the potentiation here and the two already identified residues locate to the same side of the α-helix. This side is exposed to M3, where further residues were identified. From the fact that the important residues span > 18 Å, we conclude that the hydrophobic tail of the bound 2-AG molecule must be near linear and that the site mainly locates to the inner leaflet but stretches far into the membrane. The influence of the structure of the head group of the ligand molecule on the activity of the molecule was also investigated. We present a model of 2-AG docked to the GABAA receptor.