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J Neurobiol. 1991 Jan;22(1):1-14.

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor mRNA in dorsal root ganglion neurons.

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Department of Biology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) genes are expressed in subpopulations of chick dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. In 18-day embryonic ganglia, 19% of the neurons have material homologous to neuronal AChR alpha 3 gene mRNA, and 8% have material homologous to alpha 4 mRNA as seen with in situ hybridization. RNAase protection experiments confirm that DRG RNA contains alpha 3 and alpha 4 transcripts, and Northern blot analysis establishes the size of the transcripts as being 3.5 and 3.3 kb, respectively. The proportion of DRG neurons containing alpha 3 mRNA does not decline up through 1 year post-hatch, indicating that alpha 3 gene expression is not a developmentally transient event in the ganglion. An antiAChR monoclonal antibody detects cross-reacting material in 16% of the DRG neurons from 18-day embryos, indicating that AChR mRNA is translated into protein. Electrophysiological measurements confirm the presence of functional AChRs on DRG neurons freshly isolated from 18-day embryos: 24% of the neurons have substantial ACh sensitivities, whereas another 23% have small but detectable responses. Staining dorsal root ganglion sections with an anticholine acetyltransferase antiserum reveals cross-reactive material localized in axons in the ganglion; no evidence suggests the presence of cholinergic synaptic structures or AChR clusters on neuronal somata in the ganglion. It is possible that AChRs on DRG neurons participate in a diffuse form of transmission between the cholinergic fibers and a subpopulation of neuronal somata in the ganglion. Alternatively, AChRs on the somata may represent an ectopic distribution of receptors whose primary function is at the terminals of central or peripheral DRG processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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