Yingxian Xiao

Associate Professor of Pharmacology
Ph.D., Molecular Biology
University of Maryland, 1994
(202) 687-1242

Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) are acetylcholine-gated cation channels that are widely distributed in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The nAChR is found postsynaptically at synapses, where they may mediate signal transduction between neurons. In addition, these receptors are located at presynaptic, perisynaptic and extrasynaptic sites where they may affect signal transduction processes of other neurotransmitters. The nAChRs are likely involved in neuronal development, plasticity, and other physiological roles that are just being revealed. These receptors have also been implicated in diseases such as epilepsy, Alzeimer¡¯s disease, Parkinson¡¯s disease and schizophrenia. The interaction of nAChRs with nicotine is the key step in the process that leads to nicotine addiction.

Each of the nAChRs is thought to be formed from five subunits. Eleven different subunit genes have been identified in vertebrate neuronal tissue, which allows for the possibility of multiple nAChR subtypes. We have expressed the different nAChR subtypes in HEK 293 cells. The stable clonal cell lines generated from the heterologous expression provide cell models for each of the nAChR subtypes. We are using these cell lines to study the molecular biological, pharmacological, functional and pathological characteristics of nAChR subtypes.

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