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Open Access Publications from the University of California

New capsaicin analogs as molecular rulers to define the permissive conformation of the mouse TRPV1 ligand-binding pocket.

  • Author(s): Vu, Simon
  • Singh, Vikrant
  • Wulff, Heike
  • Yarov-Yarovoy, Vladimir
  • Zheng, Jie
  • et al.

The capsaicin receptor TRPV1 is an outstanding representative of ligand-gated ion channels in ligand selectivity and sensitivity. However, molecular interactions that stabilize the ligand-binding pocket in its permissive conformation, and how many permissive conformations the ligand-binding pocket may adopt, remain unclear. To answer these questions, we designed a pair of novel capsaicin analogs to increase or decrease the ligand size by about 1.5 Å without altering ligand chemistry. Together with capsaicin, these ligands form a set of molecular rulers for investigating ligand-induced conformational changes. Computational modeling and functional tests revealed that structurally these ligands alternate between drastically different binding poses but stabilize the ligand-binding pocket in nearly identical permissive conformations; functionally, they all yielded a stable open state despite varying potencies. Our study suggests the existence of an optimal ligand-binding pocket conformation for capsaicin-mediated TRPV1 activation gating, and reveals multiple ligand-channel interactions that stabilize this permissive conformation.

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