Journal of Molecular Neuroscience

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 329–339 | Cite as

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

  • Arthur A. Nery
  • Rodrigo R. Resende
  • Antonio H. Martins
  • Cleber A. Trujillo
  • Vesna A. Eterovic
  • Henning Ulrich


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.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors PC12 pheochromocytoma cells Alpha7 subtypes Whole-cell recording Nicotinic receptor expression during differentiation 



nicotinic acetylcholine receptor


Methyllycaconitine citrate




basic fibroblast growth factor


dibutyril cAMP



The work was supported by research grants from Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), project no.: 2006/61285-9, and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) Brazil, awarded to H.U.; A.A. N.'s and C.A.T.'s Ph.D. theses are supported by fellowships from FAPESP, Brazil. A.H.M and V.A.E. acknowledge the NIH grant support (UPR-PRAABREP20RR016470 and G12RR03035-24), R.R.R is grateful for grants from CNPq and FAPEMIG.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur A. Nery
    • 1
  • Rodrigo R. Resende
    • 2
    • 3
  • Antonio H. Martins
    • 4
  • Cleber A. Trujillo
    • 1
  • Vesna A. Eterovic
    • 4
  • Henning Ulrich
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Bioquímica, Instituto de QuímicaUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Physics, Institute of Exact SciencesFederal University of Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil
  3. 3.Federal University of São João Del-Rei-Campus Centro-OesteDivinópolis-MGBrazil
  4. 4.Department of BiochemistryUniversity Central del CaribeBayamonPuerto Rico

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