Single-channel properties of α3β4, α3β4α5 and α3β4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice lacking specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits

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Previous attempts to measure the functional properties of recombinant nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) composed of known receptor subunits have yielded conflicting results. The use of knockout mice that lack α5, β2, α5β2 or α5β2α7 nAChR subunits enabled us to measure the single-channel properties of distinct α3β4, α3β4α5 and α3β4β2 receptors in superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurons. Using this approach, we found that α3β4 receptors had a principal conductance level of 32.6 ± 0.8 pS (mean ± SEM) and both higher and lower secondary conductance levels. α3β4α5 receptors had the same conductance as α3β4 receptors, but differed from α3β4 receptors by having an increased channel open time and increased burst duration. By contrast, α3β4β2 receptors differed from α3β4 and α3β4α5 receptors by having a significantly smaller conductance level (13.6 ± 0.5 pS). After dissecting the single-channel properties of these receptors using our knockout models, we then identified these properties – and hence the receptors themselves – in wild-type SCG neurons. This study is the first to identify the single-channel properties of distinct neuronal nicotinic receptors in their native environment.

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