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Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Dec;228(1-2):57-72.

Identification and characterization of muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes expressed in human skin melanocytes.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of California, Davis, Sacramento 95817, USA.


The present study was designed to identify and characterize muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in normal human melanocytes. We used subtype-specific oligonucleotide primers to localize the five genetically defined mAChR mRNAs (ml through m5) by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. These experiments showed that all five mAChR subtype mRNAs are expressed in melanocytes. The PCR products were verified by restriction analysis and Southern blotting. Receptors were visualized in cultures of normal human melanocytes and specimens of normal human skin by subtype-specific rabbit anti-receptor polyclonal antibodies. Radioligand binding assays with the lipophilic drug [3H]quinuclidinyl benzilate demonstrated approximately 9,000 high affinity binding sites/cell. Micromolar concentrations of muscarine or carbachol transiently increased intracellular Ca2+, which could be attenuated by atropine, demonstrating coupling of the receptors to mobilization of intracellular free Ca2+. Lower concentrations of muscarine induced spontaneous repetitive spike-like increases of intracellular Ca2+ which is characteristic for the activation of muscarinic receptors. These results indicate that normal human skin melanocytes express the ml, m2, m3, m4, and m5 subtypes of classic muscarinic acetylcholine receptors on their cell membrane and that these receptors regulate the concentration of intracellular free Ca2+, which may play an important physiologic role in melanocyte behavior and skin pigmentation.

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