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Neurosci Lett. 1996 Aug 9;213(3):201-4.

An evaluation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation by quaternary nitrogen compounds indicates that choline is selective for the alpha 7 subtype.

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Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610-0267, USA.


The agonist properties of acetylcholine (ACh), tetramethylammonium, ethyl-trimethylammonium and choline were evaluated for muscle and neuronal nicotinic receptors in Xenopus oocytes. The only essential feature for a neuronal receptor agonist appears to be the charged nitrogen. For specific receptor subtypes, other structural elements appear permissive (neither increasing nor decreasing activity) or non-permissive (decreasing activity). Choline was a full agonist for alpha 7, but a hydroxyl group was strongly non-permissive for other receptor subtypes (alpha 1 beta 1 gamma delta, alpha 3 beta 4, alpha 3 beta 2, and alpha 4 beta 2). The binding of these ligands to brain membranes is consistent with the electrophysiological results. Physiological concentrations of choline desensitize alpha 7 receptors to ACh suggesting that, in vivo, choline may regulate both the activation and inactivation of this receptor.

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