Ryanodine receptors (RyRs) function as the major intracellular calcium release channels in striated muscle, where they also play a central role in excitation-contraction (e-c) coupling, the signal transduction process by which neuron-induced depolarization of the muscle plasma membrane leads to release of Ca from the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Structurally, RyRs are the largest ion channels known, being composed of 4 identical large subunits (565 kDa). In situ, RyRs interact with numerous proteins that are essential for e-c coupling or regulation thereof. Some of these ligands include calmodulin, a 12-kDa FK506-binding protein (FKBP, an immunophi1 in), calsequestrin, triadin, and the dihydropyridine receptor (DHPR).
Detergent-solubilized, purified RyRs appear to retain their native structure as assessed by electron cryo-microscopy, and are amenable to three-dimensional reconstruction by single-particle image processing techniques. In Fig. 1, a solid-body representation of the reconstructed skeletal muscle RyR shows the structural complexity that is revealed at moderate resolutions (3-4 nm).