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Biochemistry. 1992 Jun 23;31(24):5507-14.

How fast does an acetylcholine receptor channel open? Laser-pulse photolysis of an inactive precursor of carbamoylcholine in the microsecond time region with BC3H1 cells.

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Section of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2703.


The integrated function of the nervous system depends on specific and rapid transmission of signals between its constituent cells. The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor is the best known of a group of membrane-bound proteins responsible for such transmission; for this process to occur, a specific neurotransmitter, in this case acetylcholine, must bind to the receptor, which then forms transmembrane channels through which cations pass. The resulting change in transmembrane voltage determines whether or not a signal is transmitted. The question of how fast this process takes place in any neurotransmitter receptor has remained one of the interesting and most challenging in the field. To answer it, many attempts have been made to evaluate the rate constant for the opening of the acetylcholine receptor channel, but in almost all these studies the rate was measured after the receptor-mediated reaction, which involves the open channel and many intermediate states, had reached a quasi equilibrium. This resulted in a plethora of reported values for the rate constant that differ by a factor of up to 50-fold, even when the measurements were made with the same type of cell. The new approach described here involves the use of single cells of a mammalian cell line (BC3H1), containing muscle-type acetylcholine receptors, and the rapid introduction of neurotransmitter to the cell surface. The rapid delivery was achieved by converting a previously synthesized photolabile precursor of carbamoylcholine to carbamoylcholine, a stable amino-group-containing analogue of acetylcholine, with a single laser pulse and an observed photolysis rate of 7300 s-1.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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