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Recombinant systems have been used for evaluating the properties of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) on the assumption of cell surface expression. However, many GPCRs, including muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs), have also been reported to be distributed in intracellular organelles in native tissues and cell lines. In this study, we compared the pharmacological profiles of exogenously and endogenously expressed M1-mAChRs, and evaluated the functional properties of these receptors.Recombinant M1-mAChRs were expressed exogenously in Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO-M1 cells) and compared with endogenously expressed M1-mAChRs in N1E-115 neuroblastoma cells. The pharmacological and functional profiles were evaluated using cell-permeable antagonists (1-quinuclidinyl-benzilate (QNB), pirenzepine and atropine) and cell-impermeable antagonists (N-methylscopolamine (NMS) or MT-7).M1-mAChRs were seen at the cell surface and intracellular sites in both cell lines. Under whole cell conditions, intracellular M1-mAChRs were mainly recognized by cell-permeable ligands, but scarcely by cell-impermeable ligands (at less than 100 nM). In CHO-M1 cells, M1-mAChR activation by carbachol resulted in Ca2 + mobilization, ERK1/2 phosphorylation and a reduction in thymidine incorporation, all of which were completely inhibited by MT-7, indicating the involvement of surface M1-mAChRs. In N1E-115 cells, Ca2 + mobilization occurred through surface M1-mAChRs, whereas ERK1/2 phosphorylation and acceleration of thymidine incorporation were mediated through intracellular M1-mAChRs.Exogenous and endogenous M1-mAChRs are present at both the cell surface and the intracellular organelles, and the pharmacological properties of geographically distinct M1-mAChRs are different, and may depend on cell background and/or exogenous or endogenous origin.