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J Membr Biol. 2000 Jul 1;176(1):31-40.

Muscarinic activation of BK channels induces membrane oscillations in glioma cells and leads to inhibition of cell migration.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294 USA.


Patients with cerebral tumors often present with elevated levels of acetylcholine (ACh) in their cerebrospinal fluid. This motivated us to investigate physiological effects of ACh on cultured human astrocytoma cells (U373) using a combination of videomicroscopy, calcium microspectrofluorimetry and perforated patch-clamp recording. Astrocytoma cells exhibited the typical morphological changes associated with cell migration; polarized cells displayed prominent lamellipodia and associated membrane ruffling at the anterior of the cell, and a long tail region that periodically contracted into the cell body as the cell moved forward. Bath application of the ACh receptor agonist, muscarine, reversibly inhibited cell migration. In conjunction with this inhibition, ACh induced a dose-dependent, biphasic increase in resting intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) associated with periodic Ca2+ oscillations during prolonged ACh applications. The early transient rise in [Ca2+]i was abolished by ionomycin and thapsigargin but was insensitive to caffeine and ryanodine while the plateau phase was strictly dependent on external calcium. The Ca2+ response to ACh was mimicked by muscarine and abolished by the muscarinic antagonists, atropine or 4-DAMP, but not by pirenzepine. Using perforated patch-clamp recordings combined with fluorescent imaging, we demonstrated that ACh-induced [Ca2+]i oscillations triggered membrane voltage oscillations that were due to the activation of voltage-dependent, Ca2+-sensitive K+ currents. These K+ currents were blocked by intracellular injection of EGTA, or by extracellular application of TEA, quinine, or charybdotoxin, but not by apamin. These studies suggest that activation of muscarinic receptors on glioma cells induce the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores which in turn activate Ca2+-dependent (BK-type) K+ channels. Furthermore, this effect was associated with inhibition of cell migration, suggesting an interaction of this pathway with glioma cell migration.

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