, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 329-339
Date: 12 May 2010

Alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Expression and Activity During Neuronal Differentiation of PC12 Pheochromocytoma Cells

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Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) exert pivotal roles in synaptic transmission, neuroprotection and differentiation. Particularly, homomeric α7 receptors participate in neurite outgrowth, presynaptic control of neurotransmitter release and Ca2+ influx. However, the study of recombinant α7 nAChRs in transfected cell lines is difficult due to low expression of functional receptor channels. We show that PC12 pheochromocytoma cells induced to differentiation into neurons are an adequate model for studying differential nAChR gene expression and receptor activity. Whole-cell current recording indicated that receptor responses increased during the course of differentiation. Transcription of mRNAs coding for α3, α5, α7, β2 and β4 subunits was present during the course of differentiation, while mRNAs coding for α2, α4 and β3 subunits were not expressed in PC12 cells. α7 subunit expression was highest following 1 day of induction to differentiation. Activity of α7 nAChRs, however, was most elevated on day 2 as revealed by inhibition experiments in the presence of 10 nM methyllycaconitine, rapid current decay and receptor responsiveness to the α7 agonist choline. Increased α7 receptor activity was noted when PC12 were induced to differentiation in the presence of choline, confirming that chronic agonist treatment augments nAChR activity. In summary, PC12 cells are an adequate model to study the role and pharmacological properties of this receptor during neuronal differentiation.