A method of obtaining estimates of the maximum binding and association and dissociation rate constants for a receptor-ligand interaction is described. This new procedure, the association-saturation method, is based on an exact mathematical equation which defines the model without simplifications. The method proposed is readily applicable to any system consisting of one ligand and one receptor. With only four determinations, each involving one ligand concentration and an association time, it is possible to determine the number of specific binding sites, the dissociation and association rate constants and the equilibrium dissociation constant with accuracy. No dissociation curve is required, and only one point of the association curve for each ligand concentration is necessary. In addition to the higher confidence in the estimates of the parameter values obtained, this method leads to important savings in radiolabelled compounds and experimental time. The results were compared with those obtained with standard association-dissociation curves and saturation isotherms. The optimum number of replicates of each experimental point to obtain reliable estimates of different parameters is discussed on the basis of simulation studies. The performance of the procedure is analysed by means of association-saturation experiments with the agonist [adenine-2,8-3H,ethyl-2-3H]N6-phenylisopropyladenosine and solubilized A1 adenosine receptors from pig brain cortex.

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