Neurosteroid analog photolabeling of a site in the third transmembrane domain of the β3 subunit of the GABAA receptor

Zi Wei Chen, Brad Manion, R. Reid Townsend, David E. Reichert, Douglas F. Covey, Joe Henry Steinbach, Werner Sieghart, Karoline Fuchs, Alex S. Evers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Accumulated evidence suggests that neurosteroids modulate GABAA receptors through binding interactions with transmembrane domains. To identify these neurosteroid binding sites directly, a neurosteroid-analog photolabeling reagent, (3α,5β)-6-azipregnanolone (6-AziP), was used to photolabel membranes from Sf9 cells expressing high-density, recombinant, His8-β3 homomeric GABAA receptors. 6-AziP inhibited 35S-labeled t- butylbicyclophosphorothionate binding to the His8-β3 homomeric GABAAreceptors in a concentration-dependent manner (IC50 = 9 ± 1 μM), with a pattern consistent with a single class of neurosteroid binding sites. [3H]6-AziP photolabeled proteins of 30, 55, 110, and 150 kDa, in a concentration-dependent manner. The 55-, 110-, and 150-kDa proteins were identified as His8-β3 subunits through immunoblotting and through enrichment on a nickel affinity column. Photolabeling of the β3 subunits was stereoselective, with [3H]6-AziP producing substantially greater labeling than an equal concentration of its diastereomer [3H](3β,5β)-6-AziP. High-resolution mass spectrometric analysis of affinity-purified, 6-AziP-labeled His8-β3 subunits identified a single photolabeled peptide, ALLEYAF-6-AziP, in the third transmembrane domain. The identity of this peptide and the site of incorporation on Phe301 were confirmed through high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry. No other sites of photoincorporation were observed despite 90% sequence coverage of the whole β3 subunit protein, including 84% of the transmembrane domains. This study identifies a novel neurosteroid binding site and demonstrates the feasibility of identifying neurosteroid photolabeling sites by using mass spectrometry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)408-419
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


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