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Worm. 2013 Jul 1;2(3):e25765. doi: 10.4161/worm.25765. Epub 2013 Jul 17.

A tale of two receptors: Dual roles for ionotropic acetylcholine receptors in regulating motor neuron excitation and inhibition.

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Department of Neurobiology; UMass Medical School; Worcester, MA USA.


Nicotinic or ionotropic acetylcholine receptors (iAChRs) mediate excitatory signaling throughout the nervous system, and the heterogeneity of these receptors contributes to their multifaceted roles. Our recent work has characterized a single iAChR subunit, ACR-12, which contributes to two distinct iAChR subtypes within the C. elegans motor circuit. These two receptor subtypes regulate the coordinated activity of excitatory (cholinergic) and inhibitory (GABAergic) motor neurons. We have shown that the iAChR subunit ACR-12 is differentially expressed in both cholinergic and GABAergic motor neurons within the motor circuit. In cholinergic motor neurons, ACR-12 is incorporated into the previously characterized ACR-2 heteromeric receptor, which shows non-synaptic localization patterns and plays a modulatory role in controlling circuit function.(1) In contrast, a second population of ACR-12-containing receptors in GABAergic motor neurons, ACR-12GABA, shows synaptic expression and regulates inhibitory signaling.(2) Here, we discuss the two ACR-12-containing receptor subtypes, their distinct expression patterns, and functional roles in the C. elegans motor circuit. We anticipate our continuing studies of iAChRs in the C. elegans motor circuit will lead to novel insights into iAChR function in the nervous system as well as mechanisms for their regulation.


Caenorhabditis elegans; electrophysiology; motor behavior; nicotinic receptor; synapse

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