Structural and functional studies of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor by solid-state NMR
Circular dichroism (CD) and attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy are used to establish the secondary structure of peptides containing one or more transmembrane segments (M1-M4) of the Torpedo californica nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR). Peptides containing the M2-M3 and M1-M2-M3 transmembrane segments of the AChR beta-subunit and the M4 segment of the alpha- and gamma-subunits were isolated from proteolytic digests of receptor subunits, purified, and reconstituted into lipid vesicles. For each peptide, an amide I vibrational frequency centered between 1650 and 1656 cm-1 and negative CD absorption bands at 208 and 222 nm indicate that the peptide is largely alpha-helical. In addition, the CD spectrum of a tryptic peptide of the alpha-subunit containing the M1 segment is also consistent with a largely alpha-helical structure. However, secondary structure analysis of the alpha-M1 CD spectrum indicates the presence of other structures, suggesting that the M1 segment may represent either a distorted alpha-helix, likely the consequence of several proline residues, or may not be entirely alpha-helical. Overall, these findings are consistent with studies that indicate that the transmembrane region of the AChR comprises predominantly, if not exclusively, membrane-spanning alpha-helices.