- Highly conserved amino acids are generally anticipated to have similar functions across a protein superfamily, including that of the P2X ion channels, which are gated by extracellular ATP. However, whether and how these functions are conserved becomes less clear when neighboring amino acids are not conserved. Here, we investigate one such case, focused on the highly conserved residue from P2X4, E118 (rat P2X4 numbering, rP2X4), a P2X subtype associated with human neuropathic pain. When we compared the crystal structures of P2X4 with those of other P2X subtypes, including P2X3, P2X7, and AmP2X, we observed a slightly altered side-chain orientation of E118.
- Although the extracellular ATP-gated cation channel purinergic receptor P2X5 is widely expressed in heart, skeletal muscle, and immune and nervous systems in mammals, little is known about its functions and channel-gating activities. This lack of knowledge is due to P2X5’s weak ATP responses in several mammalian species, such as humans, rats, and mice. WT human P2X5 (hP2X5Δ328–349) does not respond to ATP, whereas a full-length variant, hP2X5 (hP2X5-FL), containing exon 10 encoding the second hP2X5 transmembrane domain (TM2), does.
- P2X receptors are ATP-gated trimeric channels with important roles in diverse pathophysiological functions. A detailed understanding of the mechanism underlying the gating process of these receptors is thus fundamentally important and may open new therapeutic avenues. The left flipper (LF) domain of the P2X receptors is a flexible loop structure, and its coordinated motions together with the dorsal fin (DF) domain are crucial for the channel gating of the P2X receptors. However, the mechanism underlying the crucial role of the LF domain in the channel gating remains obscure.
- Significant progress has been made in understanding the roles of crucial residues/motifs in the channel function of P2X receptors during the pre-structure era. The recent structural determination of P2X receptors allows us to reevaluate the role of those residues/motifs. Residues Arg-309 and Asp-85 (rat P2X4 numbering) are highly conserved throughout the P2X family and were involved in loss-of-function polymorphism in human P2X receptors. Previous studies proposed that they participated in direct ATP binding.