Structural answers and persistent questions about how nicotinic receptors work. Academic Article uri icon


  • The electron diffraction structure of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) from Torpedo marmorata and the X-ray crystallographic structure of acetylcholine binding protein (AChBP) are providing new answers to persistent questions about how nAChRs function as biophysical machines and as participants in cellular and systems physiology. New high-resolution information about nAChR structures might come from advances in crystallography and NMR, from extracellular domain nAChRs as high fidelity models, and from prokaryotic nicotinoid proteins. At the level of biophysics, structures of different nAChRs with different pharmacological profiles and kinetics will help describe how agonists and antagonists bind to orthosteric binding sites, how allosteric modulators affect function by binding outside these sites, how nAChRs control ion flow, and how large cytoplasmic domains affect function. At the level of cellular and systems physiology, structures of nAChRs will help characterize interactions with other cellular components, including lipids and trafficking and signaling proteins, and contribute to understanding the roles of nAChRs in addiction, neurodegeneration, and mental illness. Understanding nAChRs at an atomic level will be important for designing interventions for these pathologies.

published proceedings

  • Front Biosci

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Wells, G. B

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Wells, Gregg B

publication date

  • May 2008