The single-channel properties of human acetylcholine α7 receptors are altered by fusing α7 to the green fluorescent protein

Sergio Fucile, Eleonora Palma, Ataúlfo Martínez-Torres, Ricardo Miledi, Fabrizio Eusebi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine (AcCho) receptors composed of α7-subunits (α7-AcChoRs) are involved in many physiological activities. Nevertheless, very little is known about their single-channel characteristics. By using outside-out patch-clamp recordings from Xenopus oocytes expressing wild-type (wt) α7-AcChoRs, we identified two classes of channel conductance: a low conductance (γL) of 72 pS and a high one (γH) of 87 pS, with mean open-times (τop) of 0.6 ms. The same classes of conductances, but longer τop (3 ms), were seen in experiments with chimeric α7 receptors in which the wtα7 extracellular C terminus was fused to the green fluorescent protein (wtα7-GFP AcChoRs). In contrast, channels with three different conductances were gated by AcCho in oocytes expressing α7 receptors carrying a Leu-to-Thr 248 mutation (mutα7) or oocytes expressing chimeric mutα7-GFP receptors. These conductance levels were significantly smaller, and their mean open-times were larger, than those of wtα7-AcChoRs. Interestingly, in the absence of AcCho, these oocytes showed single-channel openings of the same conductances, but shorter τop, than those activated by AcCho. Accordingly, human homomeric wtα7 receptors open channels of high conductance and brief lifetime, and fusion to GFP lengthens their lifetime. In contrast, mutα7 receptors open channels of lower conductance and longer lifetime than those gated by wtα7-AcChoRs, and these parameters are not greatly altered by fusing the mutα7 to GFP. All this evidence shows that GFP-tagging can alter importantly receptor kinetics, a fact that has to be taken into account whenever tagged proteins are used to study their function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3956-3961
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 19 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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