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Biochemistry of Neurotransmission: A Type of Cell-Cell Signaling. Biochemistry is fun. Biochemistry of Cell Signaling. Fig. 19-1. Study Guide. Contrast resting, ligand-gated, voltage-gated, and signal-gated ion channels How do voltage gated ion channels monitor the voltage?

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study guide
Study Guide
  • Contrast resting, ligand-gated, voltage-gated, and signal-gated ion channels
  • How do voltage gated ion channels monitor the voltage?
  • What is the neurotransmitter at the vertebrate neuromuscular junction? The crayfish neuromuscular junction?
  • What is the chief excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain? The chief inhibitory neurotransmitter? What vitamin is required for the synthesis of the chief inhibitory brain neurotransmitter? What is the role of PyP in catecholamine synthesis? What is the role of tetrahydrobiopterin in second messenger synthesis (3 answers)?
  • How is the action of acetylcholine terminated? Serotonin?
  • What is Parkinson's disease, and what is the mechanism for its development? How is parkinsonism treated?
  • How are neurotransmitters released at the synapse? What proteins are involved? Name the calcium ion sensor
  • Describe the Otto Loewi experiment and explain its significance.
  • What is myasthenia gravis and what is the mechanism for its development?
  • Describe the molecular components and actions of G-proteins. How many transmembrane domains do receptors that interact with G-proteins possess?
  • What is the role of cyclic GMP in vision?
  • The human brain contains about 1012 neurons, and some neurons make 1000 connections
    • Dendrites, cell body, axon
    • The cell body contains the nucleus, and this is where almost all protein synthesis occurs
    • The cell body also contains nearly all of the lysosomes
    • Proteins and other molecules are transported from the nucleus via axoplasmic transport
    • Axons are long processes specialized for the conduction of action potentials
  • The nervous system also contains glial cells that support and nourish the neurons (Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system)
  • Types of neurons: sensory neurons, interneurons, motor neurons

Fig. 19-2

anatomy of the neuron
Anatomy of the Neuron
  • Arrows indicate the direction of conduction of the action potential
  • A motor neuron typically has a single axon
  • The axon of the sensory neuron branches after it leaves the cell body
    • Both branches are structurally and functionally axons
    • The cell body is located in the dorsal root ganglion near the spinal cord
signaling within the neuron
Signaling within the Neuron
  • The axon carries an electrical impulse called the action potential.
    • These move at speeds of 100 m/s
    • The action potential originates in the axon hillock
    • An axon can be 1 meter and longer (from spinal cord to the big toe)
  • Dendrites receive signals and convert them into small electric impulses and transmit them to the cell body
the action potential
The Action Potential
  • AP: transient depolarization of the membrane followed by repolarization to about – 60 mV
  • Below: 1 action potential every 4 msec
  • Invasion of the synapse results in release of neurotransmitter that bind to postsynaptic receptors and activate them
    • This can be excitatory (depolarization)
    • This can be inhibitory (hyperpolarization)
  • Specialized Sites where neurons communicate with other cells
    • Neurons
    • Muscle cells
    • Endocrine cells
  • Types of synapses
    • Chemical (vast, vast majority)
      • Presynaptic cell contains vesicles
      • The neurotransmitter (NT) interacts with postsynaptic cell within 0.5 ms
    • Electrical (a curiosity)
      • Connected by gap junctions
  • The next slide illustrates various synapses
    • Hippocampal interneurons which makes about 1000 synapses (orange red dots)
    • Electron micrograph of a CNS synapse
the action potential and the conduction of electric impulses
The Action Potential and the Conduction of Electric Impulses
  • An electric potential exists across the plasma membrane because of ion gradients
  • Resting potential is about – 60 mV owing to the large number of open potassium channels
  • Voltage-gated channels allow the transmission of the electrical impulses
  • Action Potential
    • Na+ channels open allowing Na+ to enter the cell and depolarize it, then they close for a refractory period
    • K+ channels open permitting efflux of K+ which hyperpolarizes the membrane
      • As these channels close, the membrane returns to its resting potential
ion channels
Ion Channels
  • (c, d) are located on dendrites and cell bodies
  • d is coupled to a NT receptor via a G-protein
origin of the resting potential
Origin of the Resting Potential
  • Sodium pump or sodium/potassium ATPase generates these gradients
  • Na+ is extracellular
  • K+ is intracellular
  • A- represents protein
  • The open potassium channels and the potassium gradient are responsible for the resting potential
myelination increases the velocity of impulse conduction
Myelination Increases the Velocity of Impulse Conduction
  • Myelin is a specialized membrane
    • Derived from Schwann cells in the PNS
    • Derived from oligodendrocytes (glia) in CNS
  • Contains protein and lipid
  • Action potential jumps from node to node (saltatory conduction), and this greatly increases the velocity of AP conduction
  • Less energy is required to transmit an action potential in a myelinated nerve
  • More energy is required to transmit an action potential in unmyelinated nerves
  • Most nerves are myelinated
myelin sheath
Myelin Sheath
  • (a) Myelinated peripheral nerve surrounded by a Schwann cell that produces the myelin
  • (b) Sciatic nerve axon is surrounded by a myelin sheath (MS)
saltatory conduction from node to node
Saltatory Conduction from Node to Node
  • Saltatory refers to the jumping of the action potential from node to node
  • The nodes are the only regions along the axon where the axonal membrane is in direct contact with the extracellular fluid
molecular properties of voltage gated ion channels
Molecular Properties of Voltage-Gated Ion Channels
  • Voltage-gated K+ channels are assembled from four similar subunits, each of which has six membrane-spanning alpha helices and a nonhelical P segment that lines the ion pore; 24 TM segments total
  • Voltage-gated Na+ and Ca2+ channels are monomeric proteins containing four homologous domains each similar to a K+ channel subunit; 24 TM segments total
  • The S4 alpha helix acts as a voltage sensor
  • Voltage-sensing alpha helices have a lysine or arginine every third or fourth residue; outward movement toward the negative extracellular space in response to depolarization opens the channel
  • Voltage-gated K+, Na+, and Ca2+ channel proteins contain cytosolic domains that move into the open channel thereby inactivating it
  • Non-voltage gated K+ channels and nucleotide-gated channels lack a voltage-sensing alpha helix, but otherwise their structures are very similar to the voltage-gated K+ channels
transmembrane structures of gated ion channel proteins
Transmembrane Structures of Gated Ion-Channel Proteins
  • The voltage-gated K+ channel consists of four identical subunits and six transmembrane alpha helices
    • Helix 4 is the voltage sensor
  • cAMP and cGMP-gated ion channels are made of four identical subunits that lack a voltage sensor
    • These occur in the olfactory and visual systems, respectively
voltage gated na channel
Voltage-gated Na+ Channel
  • All voltage-gated channels contain four transmembrane domains (each with 6 TM segments), and each domain contributes to the central pore
  • In the resting state, the gate obstructs the channel
  • There are four voltage-sensing alpha helices which have positively charged side chains every third residue
    • When the outside of the membrane becomes negative (depolarized) the helices move toward the outer plasma membrane surface causing a conformational change in the gate segment that opens the channel as shown in b
    • Shortly afterwards, the helices return to the resting position as shown in c
    • The channel inactivating segment (purple) moves into the open channel preventing further ion movement as shown in c
transmembrane structures of gated ion channel proteins23
Transmembrane Structures of Gated Ion-Channel Proteins
  • Voltage-gated Na+ and Ca+ channels are monomers
    • These form a channel similar to that of the K+ channel
    • There are 24 transmembrane segments
  • These channels contain regulatory portions, not shown here
neurotransmitters nts
Neurotransmitters (NTs)
  • Impulses are transmitted by the release of NTs from the axon terminal of the presynaptic cell into the synaptic cleft. NTs bind to specific receptors on the postsynaptic cell causing a change in the ion permeability and the potential of the postsynaptic plasma membrane
  • Classical NTs are imported from the cytosol into synaptic vesicles by a protein-coupled antiporter, a V-type ATPase that maintains a low intravesicular pH (V = vesicle)
    • The V-type ATPase pumps protons into the synaptic vesicle
    • Then protons leave the vesicle in exchange for the NT which is transported inward; this is antiport
    • Catecholamines (DA, NE, EPI) are unstable at pH 7; they are stable at pH 5 in the intravesicular space
  • Excitatory receptors lead to depolarization thereby promoting generation of an action potential
  • Inhibitory receptors lead to hyperpolarization thereby inhibiting generation of an action potential
  • Ligand-gated receptors induce rapid (msec) responses
neurotransmitters cont
Neurotransmitters (cont)
  • G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) induce responses that last for seconds or more
  • Removal of transmitters is by hydrolysis (metabolism), diffusion away from the synapse, or most commonly by uptake
    • ACh by hydrolysis
    • Nearly all other NTs by uptake
  • A single postsynaptic cell can amplify, modify, and compute excitatory and inhibitory signals received from multiple presynaptic neurons
  • Postsynaptic cells generate action potentials in an all-or-nothing fashion
  • At electric synapses, ions pass directly from the pre to the postsynaptic cell through gap junctions
  • Impulse transmission at chemical synapses occurs with a small time delay but is nearly instantaneous at electric synapses
small molecule neurotransmitters
Small Molecule Neurotransmitters
  • Acetylcholine (ACh)
    • Vertebrate neuromuscular junction
    • Pre and postganglionic parasympathetic nervous system
    • Preganglionic sympathetic nervous system
    • Central nervous system (CNS)
  • Glycine: chief inhibitory NT in the spinal cord
  • Glutamate: chief excitatory NT in the CNS
  • Dopamine (DA): selected CNS neurons; parkinsonism
  • Norepinephrine (NE)
    • Postganglionic sympathetic NS
    • Selected CNS neurons
small molecule neurotransmitters cont
Small Molecule Neurotransmitters (cont)
  • Epinephrine
    • Selected CNS
    • Adrenal medulla
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HT), or serotonin: CNS (Prozac, Zoloft, SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • Histamine (mast cells)
  • GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid): chief inhibitory NT in the CNS
selected neurotransmitters
Selected Neurotransmitters

ACh at the vertebrate nm junction

Glutamate at the invertebrate nm junction (crayfish and lobster)

  • Grandfather of all neurotransmitters
  • Sites of action
    • Vertebrate neuromuscular junction: nicotinic
    • Pre-and post-ganglionic parasympathetic: nicotinic and muscarinic, respectively
    • Pre-ganglionic parasympathetic: nicotinic
    • Present in CNS (both Muscarinic and Nicotinic receptors)
  • Inactivated by hydrolysis (the only classical neurotransmitter that is inactivated by metabolism)
  • Pathology
    • Alzheimer (?)
acetylcholine metabolism fig 19 15 19 16
Acetylcholine Metabolism (Fig. 19-15, 19-16)
  • ACh is inactivated by hydrolysis
catecholamine biosynthesis
Catecholamine Biosynthesis
  • Tyrosine hydroxylase
    • First and rate-limiting
    • Activated by PKA and other PKs
    • Uses tetrahydrobiopterin as cofactor
  • Aromatic Amino Acid Decarboxylase (AAD) uses PyP (B6) as cofactor
  • Dopamine beta hydroxylase (DBH) uses vitamin C, or ascorbate
  • A slowly progressive neurological disease characterized by
    • a fixed inexpressive face
    • a tremor at rest, slowing of voluntary movements
    • a gait with short accelerating steps, peculiar posture, and muscle weakness
  • It is caused by degeneration of the basal ganglia, and by low production of the neurotransmitterdopamine
  • Most patients are over 50, but at least 10 percent are under 40
  • Also known as paralysis agitans and shaking palsy
  • Treatment is by medication, such as levodopa and carbidopa (Sinemet)
    • Levodopa is converted to dopamine; levodopa is able to pass the blood brain barrier, but dopamine is not able to pass the BBB
    • Carbidopa is an inhibitor of aromatic amino acid decarboxylase in the periphery; carbidopa does not enter the CNS
selected synaptic proteins
Selected Synaptic Proteins
  • Synapsin
    • A vesicle protein
    • Recruits vesicles to the synaptic region
    • Binds to the cytoskelton
    • Phosphorylation by PKA and CaM Kinase II releases synapsin from vesicles and allows them to move into the active region
  • v-SNARES for vesicle-(Soluble NSF Attachment protein REceptors) and NSF refers to N-ethylmaleimide Sensitive Factor
    • VAMP: vesicle associated protein
      • Also called synaptobrevin
  • t-SNARES for target
    • Syntaxin
    • SNAP25 (synaptosomal associated protein MW 25 kDa)
selected synaptic proteins ii
Selected Synaptic Proteins II
  • Synaptotagmin: the calcium ion sensor
    • Exocytosis is triggered by Ca2+
  • Rab3A is a G protein found on vesicles and is required for fusion with the plasma membrane and exocytosis
  • Formation of a VAMP-syntaxin-SNAP25 complex occurs with vesicle fusion and exocytosis
    • NSF (N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor), alpha- beta-, and gamma-SNAP dissociate the VAMP-syntaxin-SNAP25 complex (ATP dependent) after fusion
    • The proteins return to their initial state (in the vesicle or on the target membrane)
  • Action potential opens Ca2+ channels in the synaptic region which triggers exocytosis
excitation and inhibition
Excitation and Inhibition
  • Top: frog skeletal muscle
  • Bottom: frog heart
  • The Loewi experiment provided proof that neurotransmission is chemical in nature (as opposed to electrical)
    • Vagusstuff (ACh)
    • Accelerinstuff (NE)
    • Learn this experiment
neurotransmitter receptors
Neurotransmitter Receptors
  • Ligand-gated receptors are fast; GPCRs are slow
  • ACh and the nicotinic receptor at the neuromuscular junction is ligand gated and promotes the flux of both sodium and potassium
  • Nicotinic receptor and other ligand-gated receptors consists of 5 subunits
    • There are four candidate membrane-spanning regions for each subunit
    • An M2 alpha helix lines the ion channel
    • NT binding triggers a conformational change leading to channel opening
  • Glutamate
    • NMDA, AMPA, and kainate receptors are ionotropic
      • The receptor is made of five subunits
      • Segments 1,3, and 4 of each are transmembrane segments
      • Segment 2 courses into, but not through ,the membrane from the cytosolic face
    • Activation of NMDA requires depolarization and glutamate binding
    • There are three classes of metabolotropic glutamate receptors (7 TM)
  • GABA and glycine receptors are ligand-gated Cl- channels
    • Five subunits per receptor
    • Intricate
    • Four candidate transmembrane segments
neurotransmitter receptors ii
Neurotransmitter Receptors II
  • ACh and muscarinic receptors in heart
    • Causes dissociation of a heterotrimeric G protein
    • G beta, gamma binds to and opens a K+ channel, and this leads to hyperpolarization (inhibition)
  • G-protein coupled catecholamine receptors lead to elevated cAMP
ligand gated ion channel receptors
Ligand-gated Ion Channel Receptors
  • Note that Cl- is responsible for hyperpolarization
  • Note that Na+ is responsible for depolarization
  • These receptors are made up of 5 subunits each with 4 TM segments: 5X4 = 20 TM segments
nicotinic receptor and the nm junction
Nicotinic Receptor and the nm Junction
  • The formation of autoantibodies against this receptor produces myasthenia gravis
  • Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a chronic neuromuscular disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal or voluntary muscles of the body
  • The muscle weakness increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest.
  • MG most commonly occurs in young adult women and older men but can occur at any age
  • Although MG may affect any voluntary muscle, certain muscles including those that control eye movements, eye lids, chewing, swallowing, coughing, and facial expressions are more often affected
  • Weakness may also occur in the muscles that control breathing and arm and leg movements.
  • Therapies include medications such as anticholinesterase agents, prednisone, cyclosporine, and azathioprine
  • Thymectomy
  • Plasmapheresis, a procedure in which antibodies are removed from blood plasma
nicotinic ach receptor
Nicotinic ACh Receptor
  • Most of the protein mass is extracellular
  • There are two acetylcholine binding sites
  • There are four membrane TM segments (M1, M2, M3, M4) in each of the five subunits (5X4=20)
    • Five M2 helices form the pore
  • Aspartate and glutamate side chains at both ends of the pore exclude anions
pore lining m2 helices
Pore-lining M2 Helices
  • Closed state: kink in the center of each M2 helix constricts the passageway
  • Open state: kinks rotate to one side so that helices are farther apart
  • Only 3 of the 5 M2 helices are shown
nmda and non nmda glu receptors
NMDA and Non-NMDA Glu Receptors
  • NMDA is blocked by Mg2+
  • Depolarization of several non-NMDA receptors leads to depolarization and removal of Mg2+
  • Ca2+ as well as Na+ traverse the NMDA receptor
  • This leads to an enhanced response in the postsynaptic cells
  • This is long-term potentiation that results from a burst of stimulation
ach induced opening of k channels in heart
ACh-induced Opening of K+ Channels in Heart
  • ACh leads to activation of the muscarinic receptor
  • This leads to the exchange of GTP for GDP in the heterotrimeric G-protein
  • The beta-gamma subunits activate a K+ channel
  • The outward flow of K+ leads to a more negative intracellular potential, or hyperpolarization, and a decreased rate of contraction
actions of heterotrimeric g proteins
Actions of Heterotrimeric G-proteins
  • Stimulate adenylyl cyclase: Gs
  • Inhibit adenylyl cyclase: Gi
  • Activate phospholipase C leading to IP3 and diacylglycerol production: Gq
inactivation of nts
Inactivation of NTs
  • Uptake (most prevalent form)
    • DA, NE, EPI
    • 5-HT
    • Glu
    • Gly
    • Almost all NTs except ACh and neuropeptides
    • Julius Axelrod at the NIH discovered norepinephrine reuptake and transformed the field
  • Hydrolysis
    • Neuropeptides
    • ACh
an electric synapse
An Electric Synapse
  • The plasma membranes of the pre-and post-synaptic cells are linked by gap junctions
  • Flow of ions through these channels allows electric impulses to be transmitted directly from one cell to the next
  • Unusual in mammals
  • Occur in fish (goldfish)
transmission across electric and chemical synapses
Transmission Across Electric and Chemical Synapses
  • Transmission across an electrical synapse is fast (microseconds)
  • Transmission across a chemical synapse occurs on the order of milliseconds
    • This was the evidence that convinced everyone that neurotransmission in the CNS is chemical and not electrical in nature
sensory transduction
Sensory Transduction
  • Converts signals from the environment into electric signals
    • Light: G-protein
    • Odor: G-protein
    • Taste: gated
    • Sound: gated
    • Touch: gated
  • Vision
    • Stimulated rhodopsin activates transducin, a G-protein
    • Transducin alpha-GTP activates PDE
    • PDE lowers cGMP
    • cGMP-gated Na+/Ca2+ are closed, membrane hyperpolarization occurs, and less NT is released
  • Each sensory neuron in the olfactory epithelium expresses a single type of odorant receptor
    • Golf are coupled to and activates adenylyl cyclase
    • cAMP opens gated channels causing depolarization of the cell membrane and generation of an action potential
    • The thousand or so olfactory receptors are intronless
hyperpolarization of the rod cell membrane
Hyperpolarization of the Rod-Cell Membrane
  • This system works “backwards”
  • Light causes hyperpolarization and decreased released of a NT (Glutamate)
actions in the rod cell
Actions in the Rod Cell
  • In the dark, the rod cell is hyperpolarized owing to the activation of a sodium channel by cGMP
  • Light activates rhodopsin, a 7 transmembrane segment light receptor (the first 7 TM domain protein to be described)
  • The heterotrimeric G-protein becomes activated
  • The active a-subunit of the G-protein binds to the g-subunit of phosphodiesterase (abg) to form a complex
  • The ab–complex of PDI is now active
  • cGMP levels fall, the sodium channel is closed, and the cell becomes less depolarized (i.e., more polarized or hyperpolarized, and less Glu is released)
color vision and spectra
Color Vision and Spectra
  • Color vision uses three opsin pigments; opsins are proteins
  • These correspond to the three classes of cones
    • Blue
    • Green
    • Red
  • Opsins differ, but the pigment is the same
  • Red and green opsins are on chromosome X
    • Owing to recombination, X chromosomes with only a red or a green opsin gene is formed
    • 8% of human males leads to red-green blindness
olfactory epithelium
Olfactory Epithelium
  • The human olfactory epithelium expresses about 1000 different odorant receptors
    • These are G-protein linked
    • Golf
    • Activate adenylyl cyclase
    • cAMP-gated channel induces depolarization
  • (b,c) Odorant cells expressing the same receptor project to the same point in the olfactory bulb
channel summary
Channel Summary
  • Resting, always open
  • Voltage gated K+ and cyclic nucleotide gated
    • Four proteins with 6 TM segments = 24 TM segments
  • Voltage-gated Na+ and Ca+ channels
    • 24 TM segments
  • Ligand gated (ACh, Glu) Na+ channels
    • Five subunits with four TM segments = 20 TM segments total
  • Ligand gated (GABA, Gly)
    • Five subunits with four TM segments = 20 TM segments total