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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 8;279(41):42476-83. Epub 2004 Jul 27.

The Caenorhabditis elegans unc-63 gene encodes a levamisole-sensitive nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha subunit.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Functional Genetics Unit, Department of Human Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QX, United Kingdom.


The anthelmintic drug levamisole causes hypercontraction of body wall muscles and lethality in nematode worms. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a genetic screen for levamisole resistance has identified 12 genes, three of which (unc-38, unc-29, and lev-1) encode nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits. Here we describe the molecular and functional characterization of another levamisole-resistant gene, unc-63, encoding a nAChR alpha subunit with a predicted amino acid sequence most similar to that of UNC-38. Like UNC-38 and UNC-29, UNC-63 is expressed in body wall muscles. In addition, UNC-63 is expressed in vulval muscles and neurons. We also show that LEV-1 is expressed in body wall muscle, thus overlapping the cellular localization of UNC-63, UNC-38, and UNC-29 and suggesting possible association in vivo. This is supported by electrophysiological studies on body wall muscle, which demonstrate that a levamisole-sensitive nAChR present at the C. elegans neuromuscular junction requires both UNC-63 and LEV-1 subunits. Thus, at least four subunits, two alpha types (UNC-38 and UNC-63) and two non-alpha types (UNC-29 and LEV-1), can contribute to levamisole-sensitive muscle nAChRs in nematodes.

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