In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (14)

Articles by Christopher I. Richards in JoVE

Other articles by Christopher I. Richards on PubMed

Trafficking of Alpha4* Nicotinic Receptors Revealed by Superecliptic Phluorin: Effects of a Beta4 Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-associated Mutation and Chronic Exposure to Nicotine

The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Sep, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21768117

We employed a pH-sensitive GFP analog, superecliptic phluorin, to observe aspects of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) trafficking to the plasma membrane (PM) in cultured mouse cortical neurons. The experiments exploit differences in the pH among endoplasmic reticulum (ER), trafficking vesicles, and the extracellular solution. The data confirm that few α4β4 nAChRs, but many α4β2 nAChRs, remain in neutral intracellular compartments, mostly the ER. We observed fusion events between nAChR-containing vesicles and PM; these could be quantified in the dendritic processes. We also studied the β4R348C polymorphism, linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This mutation depressed fusion rates of α4β4 receptor-containing vesicles with the PM by ∼2-fold, with only a small decrease in the number of nAChRs per vesicle. The mutation also decreased the number of ER exit sites, showing that the reduced receptor insertion results from a change at an early stage in trafficking. We confirm the previous report that the mutation leads to reduced agonist-induced currents; in the cortical neurons studied, the reduction amounts to 2-3-fold. Therefore, the reduced agonist-induced currents are caused by the reduced number of α4β4-containing vesicles reaching the membrane. Chronic nicotine exposure (0.2 μM) did not alter the PM insertion frequency or trafficking behavior of α4β4-laden vesicles. In contrast, chronic nicotine substantially increased the number of α4β2-containing vesicle fusions at the PM; this stage in α4β2 nAChR up-regulation is presumably downstream from increased ER exit. Superecliptic phluorin provides a tool to monitor trafficking dynamics of nAChRs in disease and addiction.

Pharmacological Chaperoning of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors Reduces the Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress Response

Molecular Pharmacology. Jun, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22379121

We report the first observation that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR) can decrease when a central nervous system drug acts as an intracellular pharmacological chaperone for its classic receptor. Transient expression of α4β2 nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) in Neuro-2a cells induced the nuclear translocation of activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6), which is part of the UPR. Cells were exposed for 48 h to the full agonist nicotine, the partial agonist cytisine, or the competitive antagonist dihydro-β-erythroidine; we also tested mutant nAChRs that readily exit the ER. Each of these four manipulations increased Sec24D-enhanced green fluorescent protein fluorescence of condensed ER exit sites and attenuated translocation of ATF6-enhanced green fluorescent protein to the nucleus. However, we found no correlation among the manipulations regarding other tested parameters [i.e., changes in nAChR stoichiometry (α4(2)β2(3) versus α4(3)β2(2)), changes in ER and trans-Golgi structures, or the degree of nAChR up-regulation at the plasma membrane]. The four manipulations activated 0 to 0.4% of nAChRs, which shows that activation of the nAChR channel did not underlie the reduced ER stress. Nicotine also attenuated endogenously expressed ATF6 translocation and phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α in mouse cortical neurons transfected with α4β2 nAChRs. We conclude that, when nicotine accelerates ER export of α4β2 nAChRs, this suppresses ER stress and the UPR. Suppression of a sustained UPR may explain the apparent neuroprotective effect that causes the inverse correlation between a person's history of tobacco use and susceptibility to developing Parkinson's disease. This suggests a novel mechanism for neuroprotection by nicotine.

Live-cell Imaging of Single Receptor Composition Using Zero-mode Waveguide Nanostructures

Nano Letters. Jul, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22668081

We exploit the optical and spatial features of subwavelength nanostructures to examine individual receptors on the plasma membrane of living cells. Receptors were sequestered in portions of the membrane projected into zero-mode waveguides. Using single-step photobleaching of green fluorescent protein incorporated into individual subunits, the resulting spatial isolation was used to measure subunit stoichiometry in α4β4 and α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine and P2X2 ATP receptors. We also show that nicotine and cytisine have differential effects on α4β2 stoichiometry.

Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) Correlates of Altered Subunit Stoichiometry in Cys-loop Receptors, Exemplified by Nicotinic α4β2

International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22949846

We provide a theory for employing Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements to determine altered heteropentameric ion channel stoichiometries in intracellular compartments of living cells. We simulate FRET within nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) whose α4 and β2 subunits contain acceptor and donor fluorescent protein moieties, respectively, within the cytoplasmic loops. We predict FRET and normalized FRET (NFRET) for the two predominant stoichiometries, (α4)(3)(β2)(2)vs. (α4)(2)(β2)(3). Studying the ratio between FRET or NFRET for the two stoichiometries, minimizes distortions due to various photophysical uncertainties. Within a range of assumptions concerning the distance between fluorophores, deviations from plane pentameric geometry, and other asymmetries, the predicted FRET and NFRET for (α4)(3)(β2)(2) exceeds that of (α4)(2)(β2)(3). The simulations account for published data on transfected Neuro2a cells in which α4β2 stoichiometries were manipulated by varying fluorescent subunit cDNA ratios: NFRET decreased monotonically from (α4)(3)(β2)(2) stoichiometry to mostly (α4)(2)(β2)(3). The simulations also account for previous macroscopic and single-channel observations that pharmacological chaperoning by nicotine and cytisine increase the (α4)(2)(β2)(3) and (α4)(3)(β2)(2) populations, respectively. We also analyze sources of variability. NFRET-based monitoring of changes in subunit stoichiometry can contribute usefully to studies on Cys-loop receptors.

Nicotine Exploits a COPI-mediated Process for Chaperone-mediated Up-regulation of Its Receptors

The Journal of General Physiology. Jan, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24378908

Chronic exposure to nicotine up-regulates high sensitivity nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the brain. This up-regulation partially underlies addiction and may also contribute to protection against Parkinson's disease. nAChRs containing the α6 subunit (α6* nAChRs) are expressed in neurons in several brain regions, but comparatively little is known about the effect of chronic nicotine on these nAChRs. We report here that nicotine up-regulates α6* nAChRs in several mouse brain regions (substantia nigra pars compacta, ventral tegmental area, medial habenula, and superior colliculus) and in neuroblastoma 2a cells. We present evidence that a coat protein complex I (COPI)-mediated process mediates this up-regulation of α6* or α4* nAChRs but does not participate in basal trafficking. We show that α6β2β3 nAChR up-regulation is prevented by mutating a putative COPI-binding motif in the β3 subunit or by inhibiting COPI. Similarly, a COPI-dependent process is required for up-regulation of α4β2 nAChRs by chronic nicotine but not for basal trafficking. Mutation of the putative COPI-binding motif or inhibition of COPI also results in reduced normalized Förster resonance energy transfer between α6β2β3 nAChRs and εCOP subunits. The discovery that nicotine exploits a COPI-dependent process to chaperone high sensitivity nAChRs is novel and suggests that this may be a common mechanism in the up-regulation of nAChRs in response to chronic nicotine.

Single-particle Fluorescence Intensity Fluctuations of Carbon Nanodots

Nano Letters. Feb, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24397573

Fluorescent carbon nanodots (CNDs) were synthesized in oxidized and reduced forms and were analyzed at the single-particle level. Images of single CNDs at different excitation energies revealed significant heterogeneity in the lower energy trap sites between particles. We observed that a high percentage of reduced CND particles transitioned between multiple fluorescence intensity levels indicative of multichromophoric systems. Despite this behavior, individual CNDs exhibit single-step photobleaching and transient blinking to the background level suggesting single-molecule behavior.

Pharmacological Chaperoning of NAChRs: a Therapeutic Target for Parkinson's Disease

Pharmacological Research. May, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 24593907

Chronic exposure to nicotine results in an upregulation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) at the cellular plasma membrane. nAChR upregulation occurs via nicotine-mediated pharmacological receptor chaperoning and is thought to contribute to the addictive properties of tobacco as well as relapse following smoking cessation. At the subcellular level, pharmacological chaperoning by nicotine and nicotinic ligands causes profound changes in the structure and function of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), ER exit sites, the Golgi apparatus and secretory vesicles of cells. Chaperoning-induced changes in cell physiology exert an overall inhibitory effect on the ER stress/unfolded protein response. Cell autonomous factors such as the repertoire of nAChR subtypes expressed by neurons and the pharmacological properties of nicotinic ligands (full or partial agonist versus competitive antagonist) govern the efficiency of receptor chaperoning and upregulation. Together, these findings are beginning to pave the way for developing pharmacological chaperones to treat Parkinson's disease and nicotine addiction.

Lynx1 Shifts α4β2 Nicotinic Receptor Subunit Stoichiometry by Affecting Assembly in the Endoplasmic Reticulum

The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Nov, 2014  |  Pubmed ID: 25193667

Glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored neurotoxin-like receptor binding proteins, such as lynx modulators, are topologically positioned to exert pharmacological effects by binding to the extracellular portion of nAChRs. These actions are generally thought to proceed when both lynx and the nAChRs are on the plasma membrane. Here, we demonstrate that lynx1 also exerts effects on α4β2 nAChRs within the endoplasmic reticulum. Lynx1 affects assembly of nascent α4 and β2 subunits and alters the stoichiometry of the receptor population that reaches the plasma membrane. Additionally, these data suggest that lynx1 shifts nAChR stoichiometry to low sensitivity (α4)3(β2)2 pentamers primarily through this interaction in the endoplasmic reticulum, rather than solely via direct modulation of activity on the plasma membrane. To our knowledge, these data represent the first test of the hypothesis that a lynx family member, or indeed any glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored protein, could act within the cell to alter assembly of a multisubunit protein.

Cell-derived Vesicles for Single-molecule Imaging of Membrane Proteins

Angewandte Chemie (International Ed. in English). Jan, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 25363667

A new approach is presented for the application of single-molecule imaging to membrane receptors through the use of vesicles derived from cells expressing fluorescently labeled receptors. During the isolation of vesicles, receptors remain embedded in the membrane of the resultant vesicles, thus allowing these vesicles to serve as nanocontainers for single-molecule measurements. Cell-derived vesicles maintain the structural integrity of transmembrane receptors by keeping them in their physiological membrane. It was demonstrated that receptors isolated in these vesicles can be studied with solution-based fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and can be isolated on a solid substrate for single-molecule studies. This technique was applied to determine the stoichiometry of α3β4 nicotinic receptors. The method provides the capability to extend single-molecule studies to previously inaccessible classes of receptors.

The Nicotinic α6 Subunit Gene Determines Variability in Chronic Pain Sensitivity Via Cross-inhibition of P2X2/3 Receptors

Science Translational Medicine. May, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 25972004

Chronic pain is a highly prevalent and poorly managed human health problem. We used microarray-based expression genomics in 25 inbred mouse strains to identify dorsal root ganglion (DRG)-expressed genetic contributors to mechanical allodynia, a prominent symptom of chronic pain. We identified expression levels of Chrna6, which encodes the α6 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), as highly associated with allodynia. We confirmed the importance of α6* (α6-containing) nAChRs by analyzing both gain- and loss-of-function mutants. We find that mechanical allodynia associated with neuropathic and inflammatory injuries is significantly altered in α6* mutants, and that α6* but not α4* nicotinic receptors are absolutely required for peripheral and/or spinal nicotine analgesia. Furthermore, we show that Chrna6's role in analgesia is at least partially due to direct interaction and cross-inhibition of α6* nAChRs with P2X2/3 receptors in DRG nociceptors. Finally, we establish the relevance of our results to humans by the observation of genetic association in patients suffering from chronic postsurgical and temporomandibular pain.

The Nicotine Metabolite, Cotinine, Alters the Assembly and Trafficking of a Subset of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Oct, 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 26269589

Exposure to nicotine alters the trafficking and assembly of nicotinic receptors (nAChRs), leading to their up-regulation on the plasma membrane. Although the mechanism is not fully understood, nicotine-induced up-regulation is believed to contribute to nicotine addiction. The effect of cotinine, the primary metabolite of nicotine, on nAChR trafficking and assembly has not been extensively investigated. We utilize a pH-sensitive variant of GFP, super ecliptic pHluorin, to differentiate between intracellular nAChRs and those expressed on the plasma membrane to quantify changes resulting from cotinine and nicotine exposure. Similar to nicotine, exposure to cotinine increases the number of α4β2 receptors on the plasma membrane and causes a redistribution of intracellular receptors. In contrast to this, cotinine exposure down-regulates α6β2β3 receptors. We also used single molecule fluorescence studies to show that cotinine and nicotine both alter the assembly of α4β2 receptors to favor the high sensitivity (α4)2(β2)3 stoichiometry.

A Comparison of Single-Molecule Emission in Aluminum and Gold Zero-Mode Waveguides

The Journal of Physical Chemistry. A. Sep, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27499174

The effect of gold and aluminum zero-mode waveguides (ZMWs) on the brightness of immobilized single emitters was characterized by probing fluorophores that absorb in the green and red regions of the visible spectrum. Aluminum ZMWs enhance the emission of Atto565 fluorophores upon green excitation, but they do not enhance the emission of Atto647N fluorophores upon red excitation. Gold ZMWs increase emission of both fluorophores with Atto647N showing enhancement that is threefold higher than that observed for Atto565. This work indicates that 200 nm gold ZMWs are better suited for single-molecule fluorescence studies in the red region of the visible spectrum, while aluminum appears more suited for the green region of the visible spectrum.

Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors As Targets for Tobacco Cessation Therapeutics: Cutting-Edge Methodologies to Understand Receptor Assembly and Trafficking

Neuromethods. 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 28025590

Tobacco dependence is a chronic relapsing disorder and nicotine, the primary alkaloid in tobacco, acts at nicotinic receptors to stimulate dopamine release in brain, which is responsible for the reinforcing properties of nicotine, leading to addiction. Although the majority of tobacco users express the desire to quit, only a small percentage of those attempting to quit are successful using the currently available pharmacotherapies. Nicotine upregulates the number of specific nicotinic receptors on the neuronal cell surface. An increase in receptor trafficking or preferential stoichiometric assembly of receptor subunits involves changes in assembly, endoplasmic reticulum export, vesicle transport, decreased degradation, desensitization, enhanced maturation of functional pentamers, and pharmacological chaperoning. Understanding these changes on a mechanistic level is important to the development of nicotinic receptors as drug targets. For this reason, cutting-edge methodologies are being developed and employed to pinpoint distinct changes in localization, assembly, export, vesicle trafficking, and stoichiometry in order to further understand the physiology of these receptors and to evaluate the action of novel therapeutics for smoking cessation.

Direct Measurement of Trafficking of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator to the Cell Surface and Binding to a Chemical Chaperone

Biochemistry. Jan, 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 28001373

Mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) result in the disease cystic fibrosis. Deletion of Phe508, the most prevalent mutation associated with this disease, disrupts trafficking of the protein. Small molecule correctors yield moderate improvements in the trafficking of ΔF508-CFTR to the plasma membrane. It is currently not known if correctors increase the level of trafficking through improved cargo loading of transport vesicles or through direct binding to CFTR. Real-time measurements of trafficking were utilized to identify the mechanistic details of chemical, biochemical, and thermal factors that impact CFTR correction, using the corrector molecule VX-809, a secondary mutation (I539T), and low-temperature conditions. Each individually improved trafficking of ΔF508-CFTR to approximately 10% of wild-type levels. The combination of VX-809 with either low temperature or the I539T mutation increased the amount of CFTR on the plasma membrane to nearly 40%, indicating synergistic activity. The number of vesicles reaching the surface was significantly altered; however, the amount of channel in each vesicle remained the same. Direct binding measurements of VX-809 in native membranes using backscattering interferometry indicate tight binding to CFTR, which occurred in a manner independent of mutation. The similar values obtained for all forms of the channel indicate that the binding site is not compromised or enhanced by these mutations.

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