Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 20739611
Link to DOI – 10.1096/fj.10-166272
FASEB J 2010 Dec; 24(12): 5113-23
α6* (asterisk indicates the presence of additional subunits) nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are broadly implicated in catecholamine-dependent disorders that involve attention, motor movement, and nicotine self-administration. Different molecular forms of α6 nAChRs mediate catecholamine release, but receptor differentiation is greatly hampered by a paucity of subtype selective ligands. α-Conotoxins are nAChR-targeted peptides used by Conus species to incapacitate prey. We hypothesized that distinct conotoxin-binding kinetics could be exploited to develop a series of selective probes to enable study of native receptor subtypes. Proline6 of α-conotoxin BuIA was found to be critical for nAChR selectivity; substitution of proline6 with 4-hydroyxproline increased the IC(50) by 2800-fold at α6/α3β2β3 but only by 6-fold at α6/α3β4 nAChRs (to 1300 and 12 nM, respectively). We used conotoxin probes together with subunit-null mice to interrogate nAChR subtypes that modulate hippocampal norepinephrine release. Release was abolished in α6-null mutant mice. α-Conotoxin BuIA[T5A;P6O] partially blocked norepinephrine release in wild-type controls but failed to block release in β4(-/-) mice. In contrast, BuIA[T5A;P6O] failed to block dopamine release in the wild-type striatum known to contain α6β2* nAChRs. BuIA[T5A;P6O] is a novel ligand for distinguishing between closely related α6* nAChRs; α6β4* nAChRs modulate norepinephrine release in hippocampus but not dopamine release in striatum.