Transport of multiple nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the rat optic nerve: high densities of receptors containing α6 and β3 subunits

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Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are abundant in the rat retina and at least seven heteromeric subtypes have been detected. Axons of retinal ganglion cells form the optic nerve and innervate areas of the brain important for visual processing, including the lateral geniculate nucleus, the superior colliculus, and the pretectal nucleus. Development of eye-specific layers in these projection areas are dependent upon retinal waves which are initially mediated by nAChRs [Feller et al., Science 272 (1996), 1182; Penn et al., Science 279 (1998), 2108; Bansal et al., J. Neurosci. 20 (2000), 7672]. Unilateral eye-enucleation studies in the rat indicate that nAChRs are on the terminals of optic nerve axons, where they may mediate influences of acetylcholine on visual pathways. In this study, we use radioligand binding and immunoprecipitation with subunit-selective antibodies to investigate the subunit composition of nAChRs in the rat optic nerve. We found multiple nAChR subtypes in the optic nerve, all of which contain the β2 subunit. Most of these receptors are mixed heteromeric subtypes, composed of at least three different subunits. Included among these subtypes is the highest percentage and density of α6- and β3-containing nAChRs of any area of the rat CNS that has been reported.

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