Structure of human GABA(B) receptor in an inactive state (Nature)
The human GABA(B) receptor-a member of the class C family of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs)-mediates inhibitory neurotransmission and has been implicated in epilepsy, pain and addiction. A unique GPCR that is known to require heterodimerization for function, the GABA(B) receptor has two subunits, GABA(B1) and GABA(B2), that are structurally homologous but perform distinct and complementary functions. GABA(B1) recognizes orthosteric ligands, while GABA(B2) couples with G proteins. Each subunit is characterized by an extracellular Venus flytrap (VFT) module, a descending peptide linker, a seven-helix transmembrane domain and a cytoplasmic tail. Although the VFT heterodimer structure has been resolved, the structure of the full-length receptor and its transmembrane signalling mechanism remain unknown. Here O.B. Clarke, J. Frank, Q.R. Fan et al. present a near full-length structure of the GABA(B) receptor at atomic resolution, captured in an inactive state by cryo-electron microscopy. Their structure reveals several ligands that preassociate with the receptor, including two large endogenous phospholipids that are embedded within the transmembrane domains to maintain receptor integrity and modulate receptor function. They also identify a previously unknown heterodimer interface between transmembrane helices 3 and 5 of both subunits, which serves as a signature of the inactive conformation. A unique 'intersubunit latch' within this transmembrane interface maintains the inactive state, and its disruption leads to constitutive receptor activity. The structure of the GABA(B) receptor in an inactive state reveals, amongst other features, a latch between the two subunits that locks the transmembrane domain interface, and the presence of large phospholipids that may modulate receptor function.