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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Feb;332(2):588-98. doi: 10.1124/jpet.109.162099. Epub 2009 Nov 18.

Physiological concentrations of choline activate native alpha7-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the presence of PNU-120596 [1-(5-chloro-2,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-3-(5-methylisoxazol-3-yl)-urea].

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Department of Pharmacology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL 62794, USA.


The use of PNU-120596 [1-(5-chloro-2,4-dimethoxyphenyl)-3-(5-methylisoxazol-3-yl)-urea], a positive allosteric modulator of alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), may be beneficial for enhancing cholinergic therapies. However, the effects of PNU-120596 on activation of native alpha7-containing nAChRs by physiological concentrations of choline are not known and were investigated in this study using patch-clamp electrophysiology and histaminergic tuberomammillary neurons in hypothalamic slices. In the presence of PNU-120596, subthreshold (i.e., inactive) physiological concentrations of choline ( approximately 10 microM) elicited repetitive step-like whole-cell responses reminiscent of single ion channel openings that were reversibly blocked by 20 nM methyllycaconitine, a selective alpha7 nAChR antagonist. The effects of choline and PNU-120596 were synergistic as administration of 10 to 40 microM choline or 1 to 4 muM PNU-120596 alone did not elicit responses. In voltage clamp at -60 mV, the persistent activation of alpha7-containing nAChRs by 10 microM choline plus 1 microM PNU-120596 was estimated to produce a sustained influx of Ca(2+) ions at a rate of 8.4 pC/min ( approximately 0.14 pA). In the presence of PNU-120596 in current clamp, transient step-like depolarizations ( approximately 5 mV) enhanced neuronal excitability and triggered voltage-gated conductances; a single opening of an alpha7-containing nAChR channel appeared to transiently depolarize the entire neuron and facilitate spontaneous firing. Therefore, this study tested and confirmed the hypothesis that PNU-120596 enhances the effects of subthreshold concentrations of choline on native alpha7-containing nAChRs, allowing physiological levels of choline to activate these receptors and produce whole-cell responses in the absence of exogenous nicotinic agents. In certain neurological disorders, this activation may be therapeutically beneficial, more efficacious, and safer than treatments with nAChR agonists.

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