Putative M2 muscarinic receptors of rat heart have high affinity for organophosphorus anticholinesterases

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1990 May;103(3):474-81. doi: 10.1016/0041-008x(90)90320-t.


The M2 subtype of muscarinic receptor is predominant in heart, and such receptors were reported to be located in muscles as well as in presynaptic cholinergic and adrenergic nerve terminals. Muscarinic receptors of rat heart were identified by the high affinity binding of the agonist (+)-[3H]cis-methyldioxolane ([3H]CD), which has been used to label a high affinity population of M2 receptors. A single population of sites (KD 2.74 nM; Bmax of 82 fmol/mg protein) was detected and [3H]CD binding was sensitive to the M2 antagonist himbacine but much less so to pirenzepine, the M1 antagonist. These cardiac receptors had different sensitivities to NiCl2 and N-ethylmaleimide from brain muscarinic receptors, that were also labeled with [3H]CD and considered to be of the M2 subtype. Up to 70% of the [3H]CD-labeled cardiac receptors had high affinities for several organophosphate (OP) anticholinesterases. [3H]CD binding was inhibited by the nerve agents soman, VX, sarin, and tabun, with K0.5 values of 0.8, 2, 20, and 50 nM, respectively. It was also inhibited by echothiophate and paraoxon with K0.5 values of 100 and 300 nM, respectively. The apparent competitive nature of inhibition of [3H]CD binding by both sarin and paraoxon suggests that the OPs bind to the acetylcholine binding site of the muscarinic receptor. Other OP insecticides had lower potencies, inhibiting less than 50% of 5 nM [3H]CD binding by 1 microM of EPN, coumaphos, dioxathion, dichlorvos, or chlorpyriphos. There was poor correlation between the potencies of the OPs in reversibly inhibiting [3H]CD binding, and their anticholinesterase activities and toxicities. Acetylcholinesterases are the primary targets for these OP compounds because of the irreversible nature of their inhibition, which results in building of acetylcholine concentrations that activate muscarinic and nicotinic receptors and desensitize them, thereby inhibiting respiration. Nevertheless, the high affinities that cardiac muscarinic receptors have for these toxicants point to their extra vulnerability. It is suggested that the success of iv administration of the muscarinic receptor inhibitor atropine in initial therapy of poisoning by OP anticholinesterases may be related in part to the extra sensitivity of M2 receptors to certain OPs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Dioxolanes / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Echothiophate Iodide / pharmacology
  • Insecticides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure*
  • Organophosphates / pharmacology
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / metabolism*
  • Organothiophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology
  • Paraoxon / pharmacology
  • Parasympathomimetics / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism*
  • Sarin / pharmacology
  • Soman / pharmacology
  • Tritium


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Dioxolanes
  • Insecticides
  • Organophosphates
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Organothiophosphorus Compounds
  • Parasympathomimetics
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Tritium
  • 2-methyldioxolane
  • Soman
  • VX
  • Sarin
  • Echothiophate Iodide
  • Paraoxon
  • tabun