Expression of the α4 isoform of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the fetal human cerebral cortex

Hannsjörg Schröder, Ulrich Schütz, Lothar Burghaus, Jon Lindstrom, Alexander Kuryatov, Lisa M Monteggia, Rob A I DeVos, Gerard Van Noort, Andrea Wevers, Sonja Nowacki, Elke Happich, Natasha Moser, Stephen P. Arneric, Alfred Maelicke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are likely to play an important role in neuronal migration during development. Furthermore, the α4 receptor subunit gene is related to a hereditary juvenile form of epilepsy. Only little information is available, however, on the expression of cerebrocortical nicotinic acetylcholine receptors during human fetal development. Using non-isotopic in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we have studied the distribution of the α4 subunit of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor mRNA and protein in the human frontal cortex at middle (17-24 weeks of gestation) and late (34-42 weeks of gestation) fetal stages. Both, α4 receptor mRNA and α4 receptor protein were observed beginning during week 17-18 of gestation. At this time of development, a few weakly labeled mRNA-containing cells were present mainly in the ventricular zone, the subplate and the cortical plate. A similar distribution pattern was found for the receptor protein. Around week 38 of gestation, the distribution in the cerebral cortex of α4 subunit-containing cells was similar to that of adult human cortices with the highest densities of labeled neurons found in layers II/III, followed by layers V and VI. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-containing neurons appear rather early in human fetal development. Given functional maturity, they may interact during cortical development with acetylcholine released from corticopetal fibers or other yet unknown sources subserving the process of neuronal migration and pathfinding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 14 2001


  • Development
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In situ hybridization
  • Nicotine
  • Telencephalon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


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