• acetylcholine receptor;
  • lipid microdomains;
  • membrane;
  • nicotinic;
  • surface expression;
  • trafficking


The nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (AChR) is the prototype ligand-gated ion channel, and its function is dependent on its lipid environment. In order to study the involvement of sphingolipids (SL) in AChR trafficking, we used pharmacological approaches to dissect the SL biosynthetic pathway in CHO-K1/A5 cells heterologously expressing the muscle-type AChR. When SL biosynthesis was impaired, the cell surface targeting of AChR diminished with a concomitant increase in the intracellular receptor pool. The SL-inhibiting drugs increased unassembled AChR forms, which were retained at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). These effects on AChR biogenesis and trafficking could be reversed by the addition of exogenous SL, such as sphingomyelin. On the basis of these effects we propose a ‘chaperone-like’ SL intervention at early stages of the AChR biosynthetic pathway, affecting both the efficiency of the assembly process and subsequent receptor trafficking to the cell surface.