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The nomenclature of individual families of ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) has developed independently since these receptors were first identified, resulting in a variety of nomenclature systems. As we no longer expect to discover large numbers of LGIC receptor subunits in the human genome, but are continuing to find heteromeric receptor combinations, NC-IUPHAR has re-examined the naming of LGIC subunits (1) and the evidence needed to accept a receptor multimer as functional in vivo (2,3). The nomenclature recommendations of NC-IUPHAR are summarised below.
LGICs are multimeric proteins, often with constituent subunits that are encoded by more than one gene. This raises complex issues of nomenclature and difficulties in defining the receptor types that are actually functionally expressed in native systems. These issues are addressed in two papers by Olsen and Sieghart (2,3), using the complex GABAA receptor family as an exemplar. They have developed criteria that class subunit assemblies as (i) identified receptors; (ii) receptors existing with high probability and (iii) receptors that are tentative upon currently available evidence.