Sucrose gradient analysis of chick acetylcholine receptor (AChR) alpha 7 subunits expressed in oocytes indicates that they form pharmacologically active homomers of the same size as native alpha 7 AChRs, a size compatible with a complex of five alpha 7 subunits. By immunoisolating the [35S]methionine-labeled alpha 7 subunits we also demonstrate that they do not appear to assemble with endogenous Xenopus AChR subunits. Pharmacological characterization of detergent-solubilized brain alpha 7 AChRs and alpha 7 homomers reveals that they have similar but nonidentical properties. The pharmacological difference is most accentuated for cytisine (approximately 50-fold). Thus, at least in E18 chicken brain, most or all of the native alpha 7 AChRs do not appear to be homomeric.