Effect of four-alpha-helix bundle cavity
size on volatile anesthetic binding energetics

Manderson GA, Michalsky SJ, Johansson JS.
Department of Anesthesia and
the Johnson Research Foundation,
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania 19104, USA..
Biochemistry. 2003 Sep 30;42(38):11203-13


Currently, it is thought that inhalational anesthetics cause anesthesia by binding to ligand-gated ion channels. This is being investigated using four-alpha-helix bundles, small water-soluble analogues of the transmembrane domains of the "natural" receptor proteins. The study presented here specifically investigates how multiple alanine-to-valine substitutions (which each decrease the volume of the internal binding cavity by 38 A(3)) affect structure, stability, and anesthetic binding affinity of the four-alpha-helix bundles. Structure remains essentially unchanged when up to four alanine residues are changed to valine. However, stability increases as the number of these substitutions is increased. Anesthetic binding affinities are also affected. Halothane binds to the four-alpha-helix bundle variants with 0, 1, and 2 substitutions with equivalent affinities but binds to the variants with 3 and 4 more tightly. The same order of binding affinities was observed for chloroform, although for a particular variant, chloroform was bound less tightly. The observed differences in binding affinities may be explained in terms of a modulation of van der Waals and hydrophobic interactions between ligand and receptor. These, in turn, could result from increased four-alpha-helix bundle binding cavity hydrophobicity, a decrease in cavity size, or improved ligand/receptor shape complementarity.
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