Bitner RS, Nikkel AL, Decker MW (2000) Immunohistochemical detection of alpha-7 nicotinic receptor expression by two distinct cell types in the dorsal raphe and locus coeruleus of rat. Neuroscience 2000 Abstracts 41.7. Society for Neuroscience, New Orleans, LA.
Summary: The α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit can be assembled to form a homomeric-pentamer with high permeability to calcium, in contrast to other neuronal nAChR subunit-comprised ligand-gated cation channels. Although the expression of the α7-nAChR has been demonstrated throughout the CNS, the neurochemical phenotype of neurons expressing α7 remains to a large extent unknown. Using a polyclonal antibody raised against the carboxyl terminus (amino acids 460-479) of the α7 nAChR subunit (goat IgG, Santa Cruz Biotech.), immunohistochemical staining was observed in rat dorsal raphe (DR) and locus coeruleus (LC), serotonergic and noradrenergic brainstem nuclei, respectively. In both the DR and LC, there appeared to be two histologically distinct α7-expressing cell types as distinguished by size, i.e. large vs. small diameter. In rats treated with either a selective serotonergic (5,7-dihydroxytryptamine 150 μg i.c.v.) or noradrenergic (anti-dopamine-β-hydroxylase saporin 5 μg i.c.v.) neurotoxin, α7 immunostaining was seen only in small diameter cells, suggesting that the large diameter α7-expressing cells were serotonergic DR and noradrenergic LC neurons. Indeed, double-labeling experiments revealed in the large, but not small, cell types coexpression of α7 with tryptophan hydroxylase in the DR and tyrosine hydroxylase in the LC of saline-treated rats. In contrast, there was no coexpression in the neurotoxin-treated rats due to the loss of serotonergic or noradrenergic neurons, with only small diameter α7-expressing cells remaining. The results of these studies suggest that both serotonergic and noradrenegic neurons express α7 nAChRs. In addition, there appears to be a small diameter, non-serotonergic/noradrenergic cell-type in both the DR and LC that also expresses α7.
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