Trifluoroacetate is an allosteric modulator with selective actions at the glycine receptor

Megan E. Tipps, Sangeetha V. Iyer, S. John Mihic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Trifluoroacetic acid is a metabolite of the inhaled anesthetics halothane, desflurane and isoflurane as well as a major contaminant in HPLC-purified peptides. Ligand-gated ion channels, including cys-loop receptors such as the glycine receptor, have been the targets of peptide-based drug design and are considered to be likely candidates for mediating the effects of anesthetics in vivo, but the possible secondary contributions of contaminants and metabolites to these effects have not been studied. We used two-electrode voltage-clamp electrophysiology to test glycine, GABA A and 5-HT3 receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes for their sensitivities to sodium trifluoroacetate. Trifluoroacetate (100 μM-3 mM) enhanced the currents elicited by low concentrations of glycine applied to α1 homomeric and α1β heteromeric glycine receptors, but it had no effects when co-applied with a maximally-effective glycine concentration. Trifluoroacetate had no effects on α1β2γ2S GABA A or 5-HT3A receptors at any GABA or serotonin concentration tested. The results demonstrate that trifluoroacetate acts as an allosteric modulator at the glycine receptor with greater specificity than other known modulators. These results have important implications for both the secondary effects of volatile anesthetics and the presence of contaminating trifluoroacetate in HPLC-purified peptides, which is potentially an important source of experimental variability or error that requires control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-373
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism grant R03 AA018197 .


  • 5-HT3 receptor
  • Allosteric modulation
  • Anesthetic metabolism
  • GABA receptor
  • Glycine receptor
  • Trifluoroacetate

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