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Mol Pharmacol. 2008 Jun;73(6):1796-807. doi: 10.1124/mol.108.045203. Epub 2008 Mar 12.

Partial deletion of the nicotinic cholinergic receptor alpha 4 or beta 2 subunit genes changes the acetylcholine sensitivity of receptor-mediated 86Rb+ efflux in cortex and thalamus and alters relative expression of alpha 4 and beta 2 subunits.

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Department of Medical Pharmacology and Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Institute of Neuroscience, Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


Alpha4 and beta2 nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR) subunits can assemble in heterologous expression systems as pentameric receptors with different subunit stoichiometries that exhibit differential sensitivity to activation by acetylcholine, yielding biphasic concentration-effect curves. nAChR-mediated (86)Rb(+) efflux in mouse brain synaptosomes also displays biphasic acetylcholine (ACh) concentration-response curves. Both phases are mediated primarily by alpha4beta2(*)-nAChR, because deletion of either the alpha4 or beta2 subunit reduces response at least 90%. A relatively larger decrease in the component of (86)Rb(+) efflux with lower ACh sensitivity occurred with partial deletion of alpha4 (alpha4(+/-)), whereas a larger decrease in the component with higher ACh sensitivity was elicited by partial deletion of beta2 (beta2(+/-)). Immunoprecipitation with selective antibodies demonstrated that more than 70% of [(3)H]epibatidine binding sites in both regions contained only alpha4 and beta2 subunits. Subsequently, alpha4 and beta2 subunit content in the cortex and thalamus of alpha4 and beta2 wild types and heterozygotes was analyzed with Western blots. Partial deletion of alpha4 decreased and partial deletion of beta2 increased the relative proportion of the alpha4 subunit in assembled receptors. Although these methods do not allow exact identification of stoichiometry of the subtypes present in wild-type cortex and thalamus, they do demonstrate that cortical and thalamic nAChRs of the alpha4(+/-) and beta2(+/-) genotypes differ in relative expression of alpha4 and beta2 subunits a result that corresponds to the relative functional changes observed after partial gene deletion. These results strongly suggest that alpha4beta2-nAChR with different stoichiometry are expressed in native tissue.

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