• agonist nicotinic site;
  • arsenical;
  • redox reagents;
  • immunoisolated receptor;
  • monoclonal antibody


Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) α-subunits contain a conserved disulphide that is essential for function. Here, we have examined the effects of sulphydryl redox reagents on [3H]nicotine binding to chick brain nAChR immunoisolated with the monoclonal antibody mAb35. The disulphide reducing agent, dithiothreitol (DTT), inhibited [3H]nicotine binding [50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) = 146 μM] but this effect was reversed (93±1.5%) by subsequent reoxidation with 1 mM dithio-bis(nitrobenzoic acid) (DTNB). The trivalent arsenical, p-aminophenyl dichloroarsine (APA), which reacts with pairs of spatially close sulphydryls, was a potent inhibitor of reoxidation by DTNB (IC50= 35 nM). However, application of the ‘anti-arsenical’, 2,3-dimercaptopropane sulphonic acid (DMPS), restored agonist binding after APA treatment (50% effective concentration = 120 μM). Paradoxically, DMPS was also found to be a potent oxidizing agent of these receptors. Affinity alkylation of reduced nAChRs with bromoacetylcholine (BAC; 100 μM) irreversibly blocked nicotine binding (>90%). We propose (but have not proven) that APA interacts with the cysteines homologous to Cys192–193 in Torpedo AChRs, since APA pretreatment of reduced neuronal receptors protected against irreversible BAC alkylation, as shown by subsequent reversal of DMPS (2 mM; 20 min). This study illustrates the potent and reversible nature of the arsenical's covalent interaction with an isolated nAChR and suggests that modified arsenicals could be useful nAChR probes.