An increasing number of putative therapeutic targets have been identified in recent years for the treatment of neuronal pathophysiologies including pain, epilepsy, stroke and schizophrenia. Many of these targets signal through calcium (Ca(2+)), either by directly facilitating Ca(2+) influx through an ion channel, or through activation of G proteins that couple to intracellular Ca(2+) stores or voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels. Immortalized neuronal cell lines are widely used models to study neuropharmacology. However, systematic pharmacological characterization of the receptors and ion channels expressed in these cell lines is lacking. In this study, we systematically assessed endogenous Ca(2+) signaling in response to addition of agonists at potential therapeutic targets in a range of cell lines of neuronal origin (ND7/23, SH-SY5Y, 50B11, F11 and Neuro2A cells) as well as HEK293 cells, a cell line commonly used for over-expression of receptors and ion channels. This study revealed a remarkable diversity of endogenous Ca(2+) responses in these cell lines, with one or more cell lines responding to addition of trypsin, bradykinin, ATP, nicotine, acetylcholine, histamine and neurotensin. Subtype specificity of these responses was inferred from agonist potency and the effect of receptor subtype specific antagonist. Surprisingly, HEK293 and SH-SY5Y cells responded to the largest number of agonists with potential roles in neuronal signaling. These findings have implications for the heterologous expression of neuronal receptors and ion channels in these cell lines, and highlight the potential of neuron-derived cell lines for the study of a range of endogenously expressed receptors and ion channels that signal through Ca(2+).
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