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Optimization of the GluC1/IVM Neuronal Silencing Tool via Protein Engineering


Frazier, Shawnalea Jimee (2012) Optimization of the GluC1/IVM Neuronal Silencing Tool via Protein Engineering. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/4AGK-FP05.


A variety of genetically encoded tools have been developed for deciphering the neural circuitry of the brain. Such tools allow physical manipulation of neuronal excitability in a reversible, cell-specific manner, enabling researchers to establish how electrical activity and connectivity facilitate the information processing that mediates perception and drives behavior. An expanding toolkit of engineered neuroreceptors, particularly those actuated by orthogonal pharmacological ligands, provide noninvasive manipulation of regional or disperse neuronal populations with adequate spatiotemporal precision and great potential for multiplexing. We previously engineered an invertebrate glutamate-gated chloride channel (GluCl αβ) that enabled pharmacologically induced silencing of electrical activity in targeted CNS neurons in vivo by the anthelmintic drug compound ivermectin (IVM; Lerchner et al., 2007). With this receptor, GluCl opt α-CFP + opt β-YFP Y182F, the concentration of IVM necessary to elicit a consistent silencing phenotype was higher than expected, raising concern about its potential side effects. Considerable variability in the extent of spike suppression was also apparent and was attributed to variable co-expression levels of α and β subunits. Thus, a rational protein engineering strategy was employed to optimize the GluCl/IVM tool. To increase agonist sensitivity, a gain-of-function gating mutation involving the highly conserved leucine 9’ residue of the α pore-lining M2 transmembrane domain was introduced. Various mutations at this position facilitate channel opening in the absence and presence of ligand. Analysis of side chain properties revealed that helix-destabilizing energy correlated with increases in agonist sensitivity. One mutation, L9’F, enhances β subunit incorporation to substantially increase IVM sensitivity without permitting unliganded channel opening. Removal of an arginine-based ER retention motif (RSR_AAA) from the intracellular loop of β promoted plasma membrane expression of heteromeric GluCl αβ by preventing ER-associated degradation of the β subunit. An additional monomeric XFP mutation complements these effects. The newly engineered GluCl opt α-mXFP L9’F + opt β-mXFP Y182F RSR_AAA receptor significantly increases conductance and reduces variability in evoked spike generation in vitro using a lower concentration of IVM. This receptor, dubbed ‘GluClv2.0’, is an improved tool for IVM-induced silencing.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:GluCl; ivermectin; neuronal silencing; orthogonal pharmacology; protein engineering; electrophysiology; FlexStation
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Lester, Henry A. (advisor)
  • Dougherty, Dennis A. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Shan, Shu-ou (chair)
  • Lester, Henry A.
  • Dougherty, Dennis A.
  • Anderson, David J.
Defense Date:6 June 2012
Non-Caltech Author Email:shawnaleaf (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
McKnight FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05252012-121406958
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7078
Deposited By: Shawnalea Frazier
Deposited On:08 Jun 2012 22:37
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 23:56

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