We have investigated the presence and nature of muscarinic binding sites on membranes from cultured bovine pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (BPAE). BPAE were harvested and subcultured nonenzymatically; experiments were performed 3-5 days postconfluence and between 10 and 25 passage numbers. Utilizing radioligand binding techniques with the muscarinic receptor antagonists [3H]3-quinuclidinyl benzilate ([3H]QNB) and [3H]N-methylscopolamine ([3H]MS) as probes, we identified a small population of atropine-sensitive muscarinic sites (1,800-2,000 sites/cell or 7-8 fmol/mg protein). Muscarinic binding sites on BPAE membranes resembled classical muscarinic receptors in that (a) the binding of 2 nM [3H]QNB was inhibited by muscarinic agonists and antagonists, (b) [3H]QNB binding was 30 times more sensitive to R(–)- than to S(+)-QNB, (c) binding of the muscarinic receptor agonist carbamylcholine involved high and low affinity components, (d) the stable GTP analog, Gpp(NH)p (100 µM) shifted agonist binding curves to the right by a factor of three, and (e) the high affinity binding of the agonist [3H]oxotremorine-M to muscarinic receptors was depressed by Gpp(NH)p. On the other hand, gallamine, which allosterically regulates muscarinic receptor binding in other tissues, did not affect the rates of dissociation of [3H]QNB, [3H]MS or [3H]oxotremorine-M from BPAE binding sites. We concluded that BPAE in culture exhibit muscarinic binding sites which possess many but not all of the properties associated with classical muscarinic receptors.

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