Endogenous subunits can cause ambiguities in the pharmacology of exogenous γ-aminobutyric acid(A) receptors expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells

Shinya Ueno, Chuck Zorumski, John Bracamontes, Joe Henry Steinbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

The physiological and pharmacological properties of GABA(A) receptors have been studied extensively after the expression of subunits in non-neural cells. Many of these studies have used the human embryonic kidney cell line HEK 293. We examined the properties of subunits that result in the expression of low levels of functional receptors and found that the properties of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-elicited responses in transfected HEK 293 cells differ from expectations based on previous work and are consistent with the idea that the expressed receptors do not necessarily contain the expected subunits. In particular, expression of a mutated β2 subunit [β2(Y205S)] in combination with α1 and γ2L results in cells that have large responses to pentobarbital (as expected) but also show appreciable responses to GABA (contrary to expectation). Furthermore, transfection of HEK 293 cells with α1 plus γ2L subunits results in responses to GABA that are potentiated by the drug loreclezole, suggesting that a subunit resembling the β2 or β3 subunit had assembled with the α1γ2L subunits. In addition, some nontransfected HEK 293 cells respond to applications of GABA, and transfection of cells with α1, β1, or γ2L subunits alone can result in the expression of GABA-elicited currents. In comparison, when QT6 quail fibroblasts are used as the expression system, no responses were seen in untransfected cells or in cells transfected with α1, β1, or γ2L subunits alone or α1γ2L subunits. Furthermore, no response to GABA was seen in QT6 cells transfected with α1β2(Y205S)γ2L subunits, although cells gave strong responses to pentobarbital. These observations indicate that caution must be taken in interpreting the results of studies of the properties of GABA(A) receptors expressed in HEK 293 cells if the exogenous subunits result in the expression of low levels of functional GABA(A) receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-938
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular pharmacology
Volume50
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1996

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