Secretion of acetylcholine (ACh) in neuroblastoma cells overexpressing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) was examined. With transient transfection of ChAT cDNA, neuroblastoma cells, which have no endogenous ChAT and either adhere to myotubes or not, failed to form functional synapses, and thus no evidence for release of ACh was detected. Stable neuroblastoma cell lines overexpressing ChAT accumulated ACh inside the cell, and slowly released ACh to the outside of the cell in a calcium-independent fashion. However, after co-culturing them with rat muscle cells, these transformed cells adhered to myotubes and ACh was secreted in a discrete fashion into the synaptic cleft efficiently in some neuroblastoma cell lines but rather inefficiently in another cell line. The results show that the latent secretion machinery of ChAT overexpressing neuroblastoma cells either is competent or possess defect(s) in ACh release.
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