Detailed information about the ligand-binding site of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors has emerged from structural and mutagenesis experiments. However, these approaches provide only static images of ligand-receptor interactions. Kinetic measurements of changes in protein function are needed to develop a more dynamic picture. Previously, we measured association and dissociation rate constants for competitive inhibition of current through embryonic muscle acetylcholine receptor channels at 25°C. Little is known about competitive antagonism at physiological temperatures. Here, we performed measurements at 37°C and used thermodynamics to estimate the energetics of antagonism. We used rapid solution exchange protocols to determine equilibrium and kinetics of inhibition of acetylcholine-activated currents in outside-out patches by (+)-tubocurarine, pancuronium and cisatracurium. Kinetic rates as high as 600 s-1 were resolved by this technique. Binding was primarily enthalpy driven. The 12°C increase in temperature decreased equilibrium antagonist binding by 1.7- to 1.9-fold. In contrast, association and dissociation rate constants increased 1.9- to 6.0-fold. Activation energies for dissociation were 90 ± 6, 106 ± 8 and 116 ± 10 kJ mol-1 for cisatracurium, (+)-tubocurarine and pancuronium, respectively. The corresponding apparent activation energies for association were 38 ± 6, 85 ± 6 and 107 ± 13 kJ mol-1. The higher activation energy for association of (+)-tubocurarine and pancuronium compared with cisatracurium is notable. This may arise from either a more superficial binding site for the large antagonist cisatracurium compared to the other ligands, or from a change in receptor conformation upon binding of (+)-tubocurarine and pancuronium but not cisatracurium. Differences in ligand desolvation and ligand conformation are not likely to be important.
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