High density neuronal cultures from rat E18 hippocampus and cortex have been characterised with respect to cholinergic binding sites. No specific binding of [3H]nicotine or [3H]cyttine to live cells in situ was detected, although the limit for detection was estimated to be 30 fmol/mg protein. Muscarinic binding sites labelled with [3H]QNB were present at a density of 0.75 pmol/mg protein. [125I]α-Bungarotoxin (αBgt) bound to hippocampal cultures with a Bmaxof 128 fmol/mg protein and a Kdof 0.6 nM; cortical cultures expressed five times fewer [125I]α-Bgt binding sites. Fluorescence cytochemistry with rhodamine-α-Bgt indicated that 95% of hippocampal neurons were labelled, compared with only 36% of cortical neurons. Average densities of 4 × 104and 2 × 104binding sites/cell were calculated for hippocampal and cortical cultures, respectively. Double labelling experiments with mAb307 (which recognises the rat α7 nicotinic receptor subunit) and rhodamine-α-Bgt gave coincident labelling patterns, supporting the correlation between the α7 subunit and Bgt-sensitive neuronal nicotinic receptor. Treatment of hippocampal cultures with 10 μM nicotine for 14 days elicited a 40% increase in the numbers of [125I]α-Bgt binding sites, mimicking the up-regulation observed in vivo studies. Primary cultures offer a useful in in vitro system for investigating the expression and regulation of brain α-Bgt-sensitive receptors. © 1995.
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