KEY POINTS - The AMPA-type ionotropic glutamate receptors (AMPARs) mediate the majority of excitatory synaptic transmission and their function impacts learning, cognition and behaviour. The gating of AMPARs occurs in milliseconds, precisely controlled by a variety of auxiliary subunits that are expressed differentially in the brain, but the difference in mechanisms underlying AMPAR gating modulation by auxiliary subunits remains elusive and is investigated. The elements of the AMPAR that are functionally recruited by auxiliary subunits, stargazin and cornichon 3, are located not only in the extracellular domains but also in the lipid-accessible surface of the AMPAR. We reveal that the two auxiliary subunits require a shared surface on the transmembrane domain of the AMPAR for their function, but the gating is influenced by this surface in opposing directions for each auxiliary subunit. Our results provide new insights into the mechanistic difference of AMPAR modulation by auxiliary subunits and a conceptual framework for functional engineering of the complex.
ABSTRACT - During excitatory synaptic transmission, various structurally unrelated transmembrane auxiliary subunits control the function of AMPA receptors (AMPARs), but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We identified lipid-exposed residues in the transmembrane domain (TMD) of the GluA2 subunit of AMPARs that are critical for the function of AMPAR auxiliary subunits, stargazin (Stg) and cornichon 3 (CNIH3). These residues are essential for stabilizing the AMPAR-CNIH3 complex in detergents and overlap with the contacts made between GluA2 TMD and Stg in the cryoEM structures. Mutating these residues had opposite effects on gating modulation and complex stability when Stg- and CNIH3-bound AMPARs were compared. Specifically, in detergent the GluA2-A793F formed an unstable complex with CNIIH3 but in the membrane the GluA2-A793F-CNIH3 complex expressed a gain of function. In contrast, the GluA2-A793F-Stg complex was stable, but had diminished gating modulation. GluA2-C528L destabilized the AMPAR-CNIH3 complex but stabilized the AMPAR-Stg complex, with overall loss of function in gating modulation. Furthermore, loss-of-function mutations in this TMD region cancelled the effects of a gain-of-function Stg carrying mutation in its extracellular loop, demonstrating that both the extracellular and the TMD elements contribute independently to gating modulation. The elements of AMPAR functionally recruited by auxiliary subunits are, therefore, located not only in the extracellular domains but also in the lipid accessible surface of the AMPAR. The TMD surface we defined is a potential target for auxiliary subunit-specific compounds, because engineering of this hotspot induces opposing functional outcomes by Stg and CNIH3. The collection of mutant-phenotype mapping provides a framework for engineering AMPAR gating using auxiliary subunits.
© 2017 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2017 The Physiological Society.