We investigated effects of Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) on the expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) in major pelvic ganglion (MPG) from adult rat. MPG neurons were found to express transcripts for type I and III NRG1s as well as α and β-type epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like domains. Of the four ErbB receptor isoforms, ErbB1, ErbB2, and ErbB3 were expressed in MPG neurons. Treating MPG with NRG1β significantly increased the transcript and protein level of the nAChR α3 and β4 subunits. Consistent with these molecular data, nicotinic currents (I(ACh) ) were significantly up-regulated in NRG1β-treated sympathetic and parasympathetic MPG neurons. In contrast, the type III NRG1 and the α form of the NRG1 failed to alter the I(ACh) . Inhibition of the ErbB2 tyrosine kinase completely abolished the effects of NRG1β on the I(ACh) . Stimulation of the ErbB receptors by NRG1β activated the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK). Immunoblot analysis revealed that PI3K-mediated activation of Akt preceded Erk1/2 activation in NRG1β-treated MPG neurons. Furthermore, specific PI3K inhibitors abrogated the phosphorylation of Erk1/2, while inhibition of MEK did not prevent the phosphorylation of Akt. Taken together, these findings suggest that NRG1 up-regulates nAChR expression via the ErbB2/ErbB3-PI3K-MAPK signaling cascade and may be involved in maintaining the ACh-mediated synaptic transmission in adult autonomic ganglia.
© 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry.