Cellular protein and mRNA expression of β1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit in brain, skeletal muscle and placenta

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2017 May:58:9-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2017.01.011. Epub 2017 Jan 30.


The β1 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit is a muscle type subunit of this family and as such, is found predominantly in muscle. Recent reports document its expression in other tissues and cell lines including adrenal glands, carcinomas, lung and brain. However, the majority of studies were of tissue lysates, thus the cellular distribution was not determined. This study aimed to determine the cellular distribution of the β1 nAChR subunit in the brain, at both the mRNA and protein levels, using non-radioactive in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC), respectively, and to compare it to two muscle tissue types, skeletal and placenta. Tissue was formalin fixed and paraffin embedded (all tissue types) and frozen (placenta) from humans. Additional control tissue from the piglet and mouse brain were also studied, as was mRNA for the α3 nAChR and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor 1 (NR1) subunit. We found no β1 nAChR subunit mRNA expression in the human and piglet brain despite strong protein expression. Some signal was seen in the mouse brain but considered inconclusive given the probes designed were not of 100% homology to the mouse. In the skeletal muscle and placenta tissues, β1 nAChR subunit mRNA expression was prominent and mirrored protein expression. No α3 nAChR or NR1 mRNA was seen in the skeletal muscle, as expected, although both subunit mRNAs were present in the placenta. This study concludes that further experiments are required to conclusively state that the β1 nAChR subunit is expressed in the human, piglet and mouse brain.

Keywords: Brainstem; CHRNB1; Formalin fixed; Human; Immunohistochemistry; in situ hybridization.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Swine


  • CHRNB1 protein, human
  • Protein Subunits
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Nicotinic