Selection deletion of the α5 subunit differentially affects somatic-dendritic versus axonally targeted nicotinic ACh receptors in mouse

Harald Fischer, Avi Orr-Urtreger, Lorna W. Role, Sigismund Huck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have compared the functional properties of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) within both somatic and presynaptic domains of superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurones from wild-type (WT) mice with those expressed by SCG neurones from mice with a targeted deletion of the gene for the α5-subunit. The functional profile of somatic nAChRs was assayed by direct macroscopic current recording and from measurements of nicotinic agonist-induced calcium transients with fura-2 imaging. The profile of nAChRs at presynaptic sites was assayed by measurement of nicotinic agonist-induced transmitter release (as preloaded [3H]noradrenaline) under conditions of action potential blockade. We have examined the responses to the nicotinic agonists acetylcholine, nicotine, cytisine, dimethylphenylpiperazinium iodide (DMPP) and epibatidine. Macroscopic current and calcium imaging assays revealed several differences in the functional profile of somatic nAChRs in WT SCG neurones compared with those from mice with the α5 subunit deleted. Somatic nAChRs in control animals were more potently activated by cytisine as compared to DMPP. In contrast, DMPP was consistently more potent than cytisine in mice lacking the α5 nAChR subunit. Differences in the somatic nAChR rank order of potency were most prominent after a least 1 day in vitro. The magnitude of somatic nAChR responses to nicotinic agonists was not substantially different in control mice compared with those of α5 subunit-deleted animals. Comparison of presynaptic nAChR-mediated responses in WT versus α5 subunit-deleted animals revealed a very different set of changes in the functional profile of prejunctional nAChRs compared with somatic nAChRs. In contrast to somatic nAChRs, the responses of prejunctional receptors were markedly enhanced in α5 knockout animals compared with control. Furthermore, all prejunctional receptor responses were most potently activated by DMPP in both control and in α5 subunit-deleted mice. Hence, the presence or absence of the α5 subunit did not affect the rank order of potency of agonists at preterminal sites but greatly affected the magnitude of presynaptic nAChR-mediated responses. The enhanced efficacy of nicotine at presynaptic receptors was corroborated in an acute atrium preparation from postnatal α5 subunit-deleted mice. These results confirm and significantly extend our previous observation that in the sympathetic nervous system, somatic and prejunctional receptors are different and rely on the presence of the α5 subunit in a distinct manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2005


FundersFunder number
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeR01NS022061


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