Activation of membrane receptors by a neurotransmitter conjugate designed for surface attachment

Tania Q. Vu, Sarwat Chowdhury, Niraj J. Muni, Haohua Qian, Robert F. Standaert, David R. Pepperberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The derivatization of surfaces with bioactive molecules is a research area of growing importance for cell and tissue engineering. Tetherable molecules used in such applications must contain an anchoring moiety as well as the biofunctional group, typically along with a spacer to prevent steric clashes between the target molecule and the tethering surface. Post-synaptic membrane receptors at chemical synapses in neural tissue mediate signaling to the post-synaptic neuron and are activated by the binding of diffusible neurotransmitter molecules released by the pre-synaptic neuron. However, little attention has been directed at developing neurotransmitter analogs that might retain functionality when tethered to a surface that could be interfaced with post-synaptic receptor proteins. Muscimol (5-aminomethyl-3-hydroxyisoxazole), an analog of GABA (γ-aminobutryic acid), is a known potent agonist of GABA A and GABA C post-synaptic receptors found in retina and other central nervous system tissue. The present paper reports experiments testing the electrophysiological activity of "muscimol-biotin" on cloned GABA receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes. This compound, which is potentially suitable for tethering at avidin-coated surfaces, consists of muscimol conjugated through an N-acyl linkage to a 6-aminohexanoyl chain that is distally terminated by biotin. We find that muscimol-biotin, as well as a structurally similar compound (muscimol-BODIPY ®) containing a bulky fluorophore at the distal end of the aminohexanoyl chain, exhibits substantial agonist activity at GABA A and GABA C receptors. Muscimol-biotin and other similarly biotinylated neurotransmitter analogs, in combination with surface functionalization using avidin-biotin technology, may be useful in applications involving the controlled activation of neuronal post-synaptic receptors by surface-attached molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1895-1903
Number of pages9
Issue number14
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Biotin
  • Electrophysiology
  • GABA receptor
  • Muscimol
  • Nerve tissue engineering
  • Neurotransmitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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