Abundance, distribution, mobility and oligomeric state of M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in live cardiac muscle

More about Open Access at the Crick


M2 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors modulate cardiac rhythm via regulation of the inward potassium current. To increase our understanding of M2 receptor physiology we used Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy to visualize individual receptors at the plasma membrane of transformed CHO(M2) cells, a cardiac cell line (HL-1), primary cardiomyocytes and tissue slices from pre- and post-natal mice. Receptor expression levels between individual cells in dissociated cardiomyocytes and heart slices were highly variable and only 10% of murine cardiomyocytes expressed muscarinic receptors. M2 receptors were evenly distributed across individual cells and their density in freshly isolated embryonic cardiomyocytes was ~1μm(-2), increasing at birth (to ~3μm(-2)) and decreasing back to ~1μm(-2) after birth. M2 receptors were primarily monomeric but formed reversible dimers. They diffused freely at the plasma membrane, moving approximately 4-times faster in heart slices than in cultured cardiomyocytes. Knowledge of receptor density and mobility has allowed receptor collision rate to be modeled by Monte Carlo simulations. Our estimated encounter rate of 5-10 collisions per second, may explain the latency between acetylcholine application and GIRK channel opening.

Journal details

Volume 57
Pages 129-136
Publication date


Crick authors

Crick First author
Crick Corresponding author