• 5-OH-indole;
  • allosteric receptor modulation;
  • choline;
  • GABAergic synapses;
  • hippocampal neurons


The role of postsynaptic nicotinic receptors for acetylcholine (nAChRs) in mediating fast neurotransmission processes in the CNS is controversial. Here we have studied the modulation of synaptic transmission by an agonist (choline) and an allosteric modulator (5-OH-indole) of α7 nAChRs in rat hippocampal neuronal cultures. Choline evoked a fast inactivating inward current, causing neuron depolarization and action potential discharge, thereby enhancing the spontaneous postsynaptic current activity (sPSCs). This effect was markedly enhanced when both choline and 5-OH-indole were applied together and was blocked by the selective α7 nAChR antagonist methyllycaconitine. This choline action was suppressed by the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline, while the glutamatergic receptor antagonist kynurenic acid had no effect. Frequency, but not amplitude or area, of both excitatory and inhibitory miniature postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs and mIPSCs) were drastically reduced when Ca2+ influx was blocked by Cd2+. Additionally, nAChR activation did not modify the mIPSCs. These data suggest that Ca2+ influx through the highly Ca2+-permeableα7 nAChRs was insufficient to directly activate neurotransmitter release, suggesting that a tight colocalization of this receptor with secretory hot spots is unlikely. In a few cases, the activation of α7 AChRs led to a suppression of spontaneous synaptic transmission. This effect may be related to the potentiation of GABAergic interneurons that inhibit the spontaneous activity of neurons making synapses with the cell under study. We suggest that GABA release is modulated by α7 nAChRs. Thus, selective allosteric modulators of α7 nAChRs could have potential therapeutic applications in brain disorders such as epilepsy and schizophrenia and in alterations of cognition and sensory processing.