Molecular modeling called ‘first snapshot of LSD in action’
D. Wacker et al/Cell 2017
Locked inside a human brain protein, the hallucinogenic drug LSD takes an extra-long trip.
New X-ray crystallography images reveal how an LSD molecule gets trapped within a protein that senses serotonin, a key chemical messenger in the brain. The protein, called a serotonin receptor, belongs to a family of proteins involved in everything from perception to mood.
The work is the first to decipher the structure of such a receptor bound to LSD, which gets snared in the protein for hours. That could explain why “acid trips” last so long, study coauthor Bryan Roth and colleagues report January 26 in Cell. It’s “the first snapshot of LSD in action,” he says. “Until now, we had no idea how it worked at the molecular level.”
But the results might not be that relevant to people, warns Cornell University biophysicist Harel Weinstein.
Roth’s group didn