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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

The acetylcholine receptor of the neuromuscular junction recognizes mecamylamine as a noncompetitive antagonist.

The secondary amine, mecamylamine, interacts with the nicotinic receptor ionic channel complex as a noncompetitive antagonist. Mecamylamine (1-10 microM) blocked indirect muscle twitches with no discernible effect on the membrane potential, overshoot, or amplitude of the action potential. It also produced a voltage- and concentration-dependent depression of the peak amplitude of the endplate currents (EPC) and induced nonlinearity in the current-voltage relationship. The decay time constant of the EPC (TEPC) was significantly shortened. The linear relationship between the reciprocal of TEPC and the drug concentration suggested an open channel blockade. Patch-clamp studies, in agreement with the noise analysis results, revealed that mecamylamine (1-8 microM) shortened the lifetime of the open channels. Further, the single channel studies showed that at high concentrations mecamylamine reduced the double exponential nature of the distribution of open times characteristic of channels recorded from myoballs. Closed times had a complex distribution that could not be fitted to a single exponential function because of the presence of short closures or "flickers" during the open state. Although the frequency of channel openings progressively decreased with increasing drug concentration, the single channel conductance remained unchanged at all the concentrations tested. Biochemical studies showed that mecamylamine (up to 100 microM) did not block [3H]acetylcholine binding to the nicotinic receptor of the Torpedo electroplax, but inhibited the binding of [3H]perhydrohistionicotoxin to its channel site, both in the resting and the activated state. These results suggested that, at the nicotinic receptors of the neuromuscular junction, mecamylamine acted as a noncompetitive blocker, binding primarily to the receptor's open channel conformation. Most of the alterations of EPCs were consistent with the predictions of a sequential model for open channel blockade. Biochemical and patch-clamp results, however, could not be fully explained by this model and provided some evidence of the existence of additional blocked states most likely through pathways into desensitized species. In contrast to a competitive antagonism of acetylcholine receptors reported at autonomic ganglia, there was no such action of the drug at the neuromuscular junction; thus, mecamylamine is a useful tool to characterize the nicotinic receptors from different synapses.[1]


  1. The acetylcholine receptor of the neuromuscular junction recognizes mecamylamine as a noncompetitive antagonist. Varanda, W.A., Aracava, Y., Sherby, S.M., VanMeter, W.G., Eldefrawi, M.E., Albuquerque, E.X. Mol. Pharmacol. (1985) [Pubmed]
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