Acetylcholine Receptors in Small Cell Carcinomas

Julie M. Cunningham, Vanda A. Lennon, Edward H. Lambert, Bernd Scheithauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Abstract: The presence of muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (m‐ and nAChR, respectively) in small cell carcinomas (SCC) of the lung was assessed by measurement of specific binding of (—)[3H]quinuclidinyl benzilate ([3H]QNB) and 125I‐α‐bungarotoxin, respectively. Of five SCC studied, four were originally derived from patients with the Lambert‐Eaton myasthenic syndrome, an autoimmune disease of neuromuscular transmission, and one was from a patient without evidence of neurological disease. There was no evidence of nAChR, but all tumors bound (‐)[3H]QNB in a saturable and specific manner. Dissociation constants derived from saturation isotherms ranged between 0.13 and 0.3 nM and maximum binding capacities between 35.4 and 181.7 fmol/mg protein (mean values for the five SCC). Competition studies revealed a pharmacological profile consistent with previous descriptions of mAChR. Competition by pirenzepine revealed only one class of binding sites, that with a relatively low affinity for pirenzepine. In the presence of the guanine nucleotide analogue 5′‐guanylyl imidodiphosphate, a decrease in affinity of the mAChR of SCC for oxotremorine was observed, with an increase in the pseudo‐Hill coefficient, but there was no change in the binding of atropine. The expression on SCC of mAChR, apparently of the M2 subclass, represents yet another neural differentiation marker of SCC. It is noteworthy that the expression of this marker is not restricted to patients with an autoimmune paraneoplastic syndrome involving cholinergic neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1985


  • Muscarinic receptors
  • Paraneoplastic myasthenic syndrome
  • Small cell lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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