Article

A Dominant Mutation in a Neuronal Acetylcholine Receptor Subunit Leads to Motor Neuron Degeneration in Caenorhabditis elegans

Department of Neurobiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01605, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 10/2010; 30(42):13932-42. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1515-10.2010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Inappropriate or excessive activation of ionotropic receptors can have dramatic consequences for neuronal function and, in many instances, leads to cell death. In Caenorhabditis elegans, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunits are highly expressed in a neural circuit that controls movement. Here, we show that heteromeric nAChRs containing the acr-2 subunit are diffusely localized in the processes of excitatory motor neurons and act to modulate motor neuron activity. Excessive signaling through these receptors leads to cell-autonomous degeneration of cholinergic motor neurons and paralysis. C. elegans double mutants lacking calreticulin and calnexin-two genes previously implicated in the cellular events leading to necrotic-like cell death (Xu et al. 2001)-are resistant to nAChR-mediated toxicity and possess normal numbers of motor neuron cell bodies. Nonetheless, excess nAChR activation leads to progressive destabilization of the motor neuron processes and, ultimately, paralysis in these animals. Our results provide new evidence that chronic activation of ionotropic receptors can have devastating degenerative effects in neurons and reveal that ion channel-mediated toxicity may have distinct consequences in neuronal cell bodies and processes.

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