Characterization of the DEG-3/DES-2 receptor: A nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that mutates to cause neuronal degeneration

Lina Yassin, Boaz Gillo, Tamar Kahan, Sarah Halevi, Margalit Eshel, Millet Treinin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor family (nAChR) is a large family of acetylcholine-gated cation channels. Here we characterize the Caenorhabditis elegans DEG-3/DES-2 nAChR, a receptor identified due to its involvement in neuronal degeneration. Pharmacological analysis of a DEG-3/DES-2 receptor expressed in Xenopus oocytes shows that this receptor is preferentially activated by choline. This choline sensitivity of the DEG-3/DES-2 channel can explain its role in neuronal degeneration, as shown by the toxic effects of choline on oocytes expressing the mutant DEG-3/DES-2 channel. We also show that in C. elegans the DEG-3/DES-2 receptor is localized to nonsynaptic regions, including the sensory endings of chemosensory neurons. This localization is in agreement with a role for this receptor in chemosensation of choline, as inferred from a defect in chemotaxis for choline seen in deg-3 mutants. Thus, this work also provides evidence for the diversity of nonsynaptic activities associated with nAChRs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)589-599
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Cellular Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank B. Minke for his generosity in providing us with frogs and electrophysiological facilities and Y. Stern-Bach for critical reading of the manuscript. This work was supported by U.S.–Israel Binational Science Foundation Grant 95-0133/2 and by the Israel Science Foundation founded by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities–DOROT Science Fellowship Foundation.


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