A theoretical study of electronic and structural states of neurotransmitters: γ-aminobutyric acid and glutamic acid

Kei Odai, Tohru Sugimoto, Dai Hatakeyama, Minoru Kubo, Etsuro Ito*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


As a first approach to understanding the mechanism for the recognition of a ligand by its receptor, we first calculated the electronic and structural states of ionized γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and ionized glutamic acid using the ab initio method with the 6-311++G (3df, 2pd) basis set. We paid special attention to the physicochemical characteristics of these molecules, such as the electric dipole moment, electrostatic potential, and electrostatic force. Even though GABA and glutamic acid are known to exert completely opposite influences in the mammalian brain by binding their specific receptors, the only difference in their chemical structures is that glutamic acid contains one more carboxyl group than GABA. As a result, we succeeded in showing that a difference of only one carboxyl group induces significant differences in the electronic and structural states between these molecules. These differences have a crucial influence on the electric dipole moments, the electrostatic potentials, and the electrostatic forces. The most remarkable finding of the present research is that the electrostatic potential formed by glutamic acid is composed of only negative parts, while that formed by GABA is separated into positive and negative parts. These results strongly suggest that GABA can approach either positively or negatively charged amino acids by adjusting its own orientation, while glutamic acid can approach only a positively charged binding site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-915
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of biochemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Electric dipole moment
  • Electrostatic force
  • Electrostatic potential
  • Glutamic acid
  • γ-aminobutyric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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