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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1993 Feb;264(2):542-52.

Nicotinic receptor function determined by stimulation of rubidium efflux from mouse brain synaptosomes.

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  • 1Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder.


The ability of nicotinic agonists to activate ion channels resulting in Na+ and K+ fluxes has been used to develop a functional assay by using mouse brain synaptosomes. Synaptosomes prepared using Percoll gradients were enriched in binding sites for [3H]nicotine and were capable of accumulating the K+ analog, 86Rb+. The efflux of 86Rb+ from the synaptosomes was subsequently monitored using continuous superfusion at 21 degrees C. Ion flux was stimulated in a concentration-dependent manner by several nicotinic agonists, including L-nicotine, acetylcholine, N-methylcarbamylcholine and dimethylphenylpiperazinium. The process was stereoselective: L-nicotine was 30-fold more potent than D-nicotine. Cytisine stimulated ion flux at low concentrations, but this drug was less efficacious than most other agonists tested. Anabasine was also less efficacious than the other agonists. The EC50 values for agonist-stimulated efflux correlated closely to the IC50 values for inhibition of [3H]nicotine binding, but concentrations required to inhibit binding were lower than those required to stimulate ion flux. Nicotine-induced 86Rb+ efflux was blocked by several nicotinic antagonists including mecamylamine, D-tubocurarine, hexamethonium and decamethonium. Mecamylamine was approximately 50 times as potent as hexamethonium. Neither alpha-bungarotoxin nor atropine were effective antagonists and neuronal-bungarotoxin was a relatively ineffective inhibitor. The amount of nicotine-induced efflux varied among brain regions with midbrain (thalamus and mesencephalon) having the largest response and cerebellum the smallest. The magnitude of the ion flux correlated closely with the amount of [3H] nicotine binding in each brain region. The results indicate that a nicotinic-receptor-mediated ion flux can be measured in brain tissue and that the ion flux may serve as a useful functional assay for nicotinic receptors in the central nervous system. Furthermore, it is postulated that the nicotinic-agonist stimulated ion flux may be mediated by receptors measured by high affinity [3H]nicotine binding.

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