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FASEB J. 2012 Jan;26(1):346-54. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-190223. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Native α6β4* nicotinic receptors control exocytosis in human chromaffin cells of the adrenal gland.

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Departamento de Farmacología y Terapéutica, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


In the present study, we have electrophysiologically characterized native nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in human chromaffin cells of the adrenal gland as well as their contribution to the exocytotic process. α-Conotoxin AuIB blocked by 14 ± 1% the acetylcholine (ACh)-induced nicotinic current. α-Conotoxin MII (α-Ctx MII) exhibited an almost full blockade of the nicotinic current at nanomolar concentrations (IC(50)=21.6 nM). The α6*-preferring α-Ctx MII mutant analogs, α-Ctx MII[H9A,L15A] and α-Ctx MII[S4A,E11A,L15A], blocked nAChR currents with an IC(50) of 217.8 and 33 nM, respectively. These data reveal that nAChRs in these cells include the α6* subtype. The washout of the blockade exerted by α-conotoxin BuIA (α-Ctx BuIA; 1 μM) on ACh-evoked currents was slight and slow, arguing in favor of the presence of a β4 subunit in the nAChR composition. Exocytosis was almost fully blocked by 1 μM α-Ctx MII, its mutant analogs, or α-Ctx BuIA. Finally, the fluorescent analog Alexa Fluor 546-BuIA showed distinct staining in these cells. Our results reveal that α6β4* nAChRs are expressed and contribute to exocytosis in human chromaffin cells of the adrenal gland, the main source of adrenaline under stressful situations.

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