Dipicrylamine Modulates GABAr1 Receptors through Interactions with Residues in the TM4 and Cys-Loop Domains

Agenor Limon, Argel Estrada-Mondragón, Jorge M. Reyes Ruiz, Ricardo Miledi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Dipicrylamine (DPA) is a commonly used acceptor agent in Förster resonance energy transfer experiments that allows the study of high-frequency neuronal activity in the optical monitoring of voltage in living cells. However, DPA potently antagonizes GABAA receptors that contain a1 and b2 subunits by a mechanism which is not clearly understood. In this work, we aimed to determine whether DPA modulation is a general phenomenon of Cys-loop ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs), and whether this modulation depends on particular amino acid residues. For this, we studied the effects of DPA on human homomeric GABAr1, a7 nicotinic, and 5-HT3A serotonin receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Our results indicate that DPA is an allosteric modulator of GABAr1 receptors with an IC50 of 1.6 mM, an enhancer of a7 nicotinic receptors at relatively high concentrations of DPA, and has little, if any, effect on 5-HT3A receptors. DPA antagonism of GABAr1 was strongly enhanced by preincubation, was slightly voltage-dependent, and its washout was accelerated by bovine serum albumin. These results indicate that DPA modulation is not a general phenomenon of LGICs, and structural differences between receptors may account for disparities in DPA effects. In silico modeling of DPA docking to GABAr1, a7 nicotinic, and 5-HT3A receptors suggests that a hydrophobic pocket within the Cys-loop and the M4 segment in GABAr1, located at the extracellular/membrane interface, facilitates the interaction with DPA that leads to inhibition of the receptor. Functional examinations of mutant receptors support the involvement of the M4 segment in the allosteric modulation of GABAr1 by DPA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-456
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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