Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) belong to a diverse and widely expressed family of ion channels. These receptors are pentamers assembled from multiple combinations of subunits, with different subunit compositions producing receptors having different properties and functions. The diverse functions of nAChRs include an essential role in excitation of skeletal muscles and many modulatory roles throughout the central nervous system. Nicotinic receptors are also implicated in a number of brain pathologies such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. Thus, it is important to understand the cellular mechanisms controlling both the numbers and the properties of surface expressed nAChRs. Genetic analysis in Caenorhabditis elegans identified a number of proteins specifically needed for biogenesis of nAChRs. Among these proteins is RIC-3, a member of a family of proteins having conserved structure and function. RIC-3 influences both surface expression and properties of nAChRs and its effects are subtype specific. Here we suggest that receptor-specific chaperones such as RIC-3 may play important roles in controlling receptor diversity by selectively regulating surface expression of nAChRs having specific subunit compositions.
- Caenorhabditis elegans
- Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors