The α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit can be assembled to form a homomeric-pentamer with high permeability to calcium. Although the expression of the α7-nAChR has been demonstrated throughout the CNS, the neurochemical phenotype of neurons expressing α7 remains to a large extent unknown. Using an antibody against the α7 nAChR subunit, immunohistochemical staining was observed in rat dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and locus coeruleus (LC), serotonergic and noradrenergic brainstem nuclei, respectively. In both the DRN and LC, there appeared to be two histologically distinct α7-expressing cell types as distinguished by size, i.e. large versus small diameter. In rats treated with either a serotonergic (5,7-dihydroxytryptamine) or noradrenergic (anti-dopamine-β-hydroxylase saporin) neurotoxin, tryptophan hydroxylase and tyrosine hydroxylase immunostaining was abolished, respectively. Similarly, the α7-positive large-diameter cells were no longer detectable, suggesting that these cells were serotonergic DRN and noradrenergic LC neurons. Indeed, double-labeling experiments revealed in the large cell types coexpression of α7 with tryptophan hydroxylase in the DRN and with tyrosine hydroxylase in the LC of saline-treated rats. In contrast to the large-diameter cells, the α7-positive small-diameter cells were neither serotonergic nor adrenergic, and were still detected in both the DRN and LC of lesioned rats. Moreover, cell counts revealed an increase number of these cells in lesioned rats with expression of α7 in somal processes not seen in non-lesioned controls. Double labeling revealed coexpression of α7 and GABA within the majority, but not all, of the toxin-resistant cells. The results of these studies suggest that both serotonergic and noradrenergic neurons express α7 nAChRs. In addition, there appears to be a small-diameter cell-type in both the DRN and LC, possibly a GABAergic interneuron, expressing α7 that may be regulated by neurotoxic injury.
Brain Research – Elsevier
Published: May 31, 2002
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