Single subunits of the GABAA receptor form ion channels with properties of the native receptor

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Science  28 Oct 1988:
Vol. 242, Issue 4878, pp. 577-579
DOI: 10.1126/science.2845583


The alpha and beta subunits of the gamma-aminobutyric acidA (GABAA) receptor were expressed individually in Xenopus oocytes by injection of RNA synthesized from their cloned DNAs. GABA-sensitive chloride channels were detected several days after injection with any one of three different alpha RNAs (alpha 1, alpha 2, and alpha 3) or with beta RNA. The channels induced by each of the alpha-subunit RNAs were indistinguishable, they had multiple conductance levels (10, 19, 28, and 42 picosiemens), and their activity was potentiated by pentobarbital and inhibited by picrotoxin. The beta channels usually expressed poorly but showed similar single channel conductance levels (10, 18, 27, and 40 picosiemens), potentiation by pentobarbital and inhibition by picrotoxin. The finding that both alpha and beta subunits, examined separately, form GABA-sensitive ion channels with permeation properties and regulatory sites characteristic of the native receptor suggests that the amino acid sequences that confer these properties are within the homologous domains shared by the subunits.