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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jan 14;280(2):1257-63. Epub 2004 Oct 25.

Ric-3 promotes functional expression of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 subunit in mammalian cells.

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  • 1Merck Research Laboratories, San Diego, California 92121, USA.


Expression of functional, recombinant alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in several mammalian cell types, including HEK293 cells, has been problematic. We have isolated the recently described human ric-3 cDNA and co-expressed it in Xenopus oocytes and HEK293 cells with the human nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha7 subunit. In addition to confirming the previously reported effect on alpha7 receptor expression in Xenopus oocytes we demonstrate that ric-3 promotes the formation of functional alpha7 receptors in mammalian cells, as determined by whole cell patch clamp recording and surface alpha-bungarotoxin binding. Upon application of 1 mm nicotine, currents were undetectable in HEK293 cells expressing only the alpha7 subunit. In contrast, co-expression of alpha7 and ric-3 cDNAs resulted in currents that averaged 42 pA/pF with kinetics similar to those observed in cells expressing endogenous alpha7 receptors. Immunoprecipitation studies demonstrate that alpha7 and ric-3 proteins co-associate. Additionally, cell surface labeling with biotin revealed the presence of alpha7 protein on the plasma membrane of cells lacking ric-3, but surface alpha-bungarotoxin staining was only observed in cells co-expressing ric-3. Thus, ric-3 appears to be necessary for proper folding and/or assembly of alpha7 receptors in HEK293 cells.

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