Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) mediate fast synaptic transmission in ganglia of the autonomic nervous system. Here, we determined the subunit composition of hetero-pentameric nAChRs in the mouse superior cervical ganglion (SCG), the function of distinct receptors (obtained by deletions of nAChR subunit genes) and mechanisms at the level of nAChRs that might compensate for the loss of subunits. As shown by immunoprecipitation and Western blots, wild-type (WT) mice expressed: α3β4 (55%), α3β4α5 (24%) and α3β4β2 (21%) nAChRs. nAChRs in β4 knockout (KO) mice were reduced to < 15% of controls and no longer contained the α5 subunit. Compound action potentials, recorded from the postganglionic (internal carotid) nerve and induced by preganglionic nerve stimulation, did not differ between α5β4 KO and WT mice, suggesting that the reduced number of receptors in the KO mice did not impair transganglionic transmission. Deletions of α5 or β2 did not affect the overall number of receptors and we found no evidence that the two subunits substitute for each other. In addition, dual KOs allowed us to study the functional properties of distinct α3β4 and α3β2 receptors that have previously only been investigated in heterologous expression systems. The two receptors strikingly differed in the decay of macroscopic currents, the efficacy of cytisine, and their responses to the α-conotoxins AuIB and MII. Our data, based on biochemical and functional experiments and several mouse KO models, clarify and significantly extend previous observations on the function of nAChRs in heterologous systems and the SCG.
- Acetylcholine receptor (AChR)
- Patch clamp
- Subunit composition