An increase in circulating adrenal catecholamine levels constitutes one of the mechanisms whereby organisms cope with stress. Accordingly, stimulus-secretion coupling within the stressed adrenal medullary tissue undergoes persistent remodeling. In particular, cholinergic synaptic neurotransmission between splanchnic nerve terminals and chromaffin cells is upregulated in stressed rats. Since synaptic transmission is mainly supported by activation of postsynaptic neuronal acetylcholine nicotinic receptors (nAChRs), we focused our study on the role of α9-containing nAChRs, which have been recently described in chromaffin cells. Taking advantage of their specific blockade by the α-conotoxin RgIA (α-RgIA), we unveil novel functional roles for these receptors in the stimulus-secretion coupling of the medulla. First, we show that in rat acute adrenal slices, α9-containing nAChRs codistribute with synaptophysin and significantly contribute to EPSCs. Second, we show that these receptors are involved in the tonic inhibitory control exerted by cholinergic activity on gap junctional coupling between chromaffin cells, as evidenced by an increased Lucifer yellow diffusion within the medulla in α-RgIA-treated slices. Third, we unexpectedly found that α9-containing nAChRs dominantly (>70%) contribute to acetylcholine-induced current in cold-stressed rats, whereas α3 nAChRs are the main contributing channels in unstressed animals. Consistently, expression levels of α9 nAChR transcript and protein are overexpressed in cold-stressed rats. As a functional relevance, we propose that upregulation of α9-containing nAChR channels and ensuing dominant contribution in cholinergic signaling may be one of the mechanisms whereby adrenal medullary tissue appropriately adapts to increased splanchnic nerve electrical discharges occurring in stressful situations. Copyright,
The Journal of Neuroscience
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Colomer, C., Olivos-Oré, L., Vincent, A., McIntosh, M., Artalejo, A., & Guérineau, N. (2010). Functional characterization of α9-containing cholinergic nicotinic receptors in the rat adrenal medulla: Implication in stress-induced functional plasticity. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(19), 6732–6742. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4997-09.2010