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J Membr Biol. 1999 May 1;169(1):55-64.

Choline modulates cardiac membrane repolarization by activating an M3 muscarinic receptor and its coupled K+ channel.

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Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, Montreal, Quebec H1T 1C8, Canada.


Choline is a necessary substrate of the lipid membrane and for acetylcholine synthesis. Accumulating evidence indicates that besides being a structural component, choline is also a functional modulator of the membrane. It has been shown to be a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) agonist and can induce a novel K+ current in cardiac cells. However, the potential role of choline in modulating cardiac functions remained unstudied despite that mAChRs are known to be important in regulating heart functions. With microelectrode techniques, we found that choline produced concentration-dependent (0.1 approximately 10 mm) decreases in sinus rhythm and action potential duration in isolated guinea pig atria. The effects were reversed by 2 nm 4DAMP (an M3-selective antagonist). Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in dispersed myocytes from guinea pig and canine atria revealed that choline is able to induce a K+ current with delayed rectifying properties. The choline-induced current was suppressed by low concentrations of 4DAMP (2 approximately 10 nm). Antagonists toward other subtypes (M1, M2 or M4) all failed to alter the current. The affinity of choline (Kd) at mAChRs derived from displacement binding of [3H]-NMS in the homogenates from dog atria was 0.9 mm, consistent with the concentration needed for the current induction and for the HR and APD modulation. Our data indicate that choline modulates the cellular electrical properties of the hearts, likely by activating a K+ current via stimulation of M3 receptors.

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