Muscle-like nicotinic receptor accessory molecules in sensory hair cells of the inner ear

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Nothing is known about the regulation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in hair cells of the inner ear. MuSK, rapsyn and RIC-3 are accessory molecules associated with muscle and brain nAChR function. We demonstrate that these accessory molecules are expressed in the inner ear raising the possibility of a muscle-like mechanism for clustering and assembly of nAChRs in hair cells. We focused our investigations on rapsyn and RIC-3. Rapsyn interacts with the cytoplasmic loop of nAChR α9 subunits but not nAChR α10 subunits. Although rapsyn and RIC-3 increase nAChR α9 expression, rapsyn plays a greater role in receptor clustering while RIC-3 is important for acetylcholine-induced calcium responses. Our data suggest that RIC-3 facilitates receptor function, while rapsyn enhances receptor clustering at the cell surface.

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