Vipoxin, a 13,000-dalton polypeptide component of Russell's viper venom, has a dual pattern of effects on the responses of voltage-clamped Aplysia neurons to acetylcholine and biogenic amines. Application of low doses of vipoxin by pressure ejection reversibly antagonized all three types of ionic response to acetylcholine and carbachol. The blockade by vipoxin of acetylcholine responses was not prevented by eserine. The order of susceptibility of acetylcholine responses to blockade by vipoxin was Na+ > K+ > Cl-. Low doses of vipoxin also produced a reversible potentiation of excitatory responses to dopamine with a slower time course of onset and recovery. Inhibitory responses to dopamine (Cl-, K+) and both excitatory and inhibitory responses to histamine and 5-hydroxytryptamine were little affected by vipoxin. Higher doses of vipoxin directly evoked current responses which were always of the same ionic type as that evoked by acetylcholine or carbachol. Responses to cholinergic agonists and vipoxin were both blocked by cholinergic antagonists but not by antagonists of biogenic amine receptors, which reversibly antagonized the responses to amines on the same cell. These results suggest that vipoxin, which has no demonstrated actions on vertebrate acetylcholine receptors, acts as a partial agonist at all three types of acetylcholine receptor in Aplysia neurons. Our observations thus provide evidence for some degree of phylogenetic difference between vertebrate and molluscan acetylcholine receptors.
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