Fura-2 recording of Ca2+ influx was used to show that incubation in 1 μM nicotine (2–6d) upregulates several pharmacological components of acetylcholine (ACh) responses in ventral midbrain cultures, including a MLA-resistant, DHβE-sensitive component that presumably corresponds to α4β2 receptors. To study changes in α4β2 receptor levels and assembly during this upregulation, we incorporated yellow and cyan fluorescent proteins (YFPs and CFPs) into the α4 or β2 M3–M4 intracellular loops, and these subunits were coexpressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293T cells and cultured ventral midbrain neurons. The fluorescent receptors resembled wild-type receptors in maximal responses to ACh, dose–response relations, ACh-induced Ca2+ influx, and somatic and dendritic distribution. Transfected midbrain neurons that were exposed to nicotine (1d) displayed greater levels of fluorescent α4 and β2 nicotinic ACh receptor (nAChR) subunits. As expected from the hetero-multimeric nature of α4β2 receptors, coexpression of the α4-YFP and β2-CFP subunits resulted in robust fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), with a FRETefficiency of 22%. In midbrain neurons, dendritic α4β2 nAChRs displayed greater FRET than receptors inside the soma, and in HEK293T cells, a similar increase was noted for receptors that were translocated to the surface during PKC stimulation. When cultured transfected midbrain neurons were incubated in 1 μM nicotine, there was increased FRET in the cell body, denoting increased assembly of α4β2 receptors. Thus, changes in α4β2 receptor assembly play a role in the regulation of α4β2 levels and responses in both clonal cell lines and midbrain neurons, and the regulation may result from Ca2+-stimulated pathways.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mark_jareb/2/