Expression of muscarinic receptors in rat islets, RINm5F cells, and INS-1 cells was established by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and quantified by RNase protection. Both methods indicated that m3 and m1 receptors were expressed approximately equally in the various cellular preparations and to a much greater extent than the m5 subtype. However, the cell lines, especially RINm5F cells, expressed less of a given receptor subtype than did islets. Immunohistochemistry indicated that m3 receptors were expressed throughout the islet core. Binding studies using the radiolabeled muscarinic receptor antagonist QNB demonstrated a maximal binding capacity of INS-1 cells of 23.0+/-2.9 fmol/mg protein. Functional analyses were undertaken using INS-1 cells stably transfected with either m1 or m3 receptor cDNAs. Overexpression of either receptor did not affect basal responses but markedly enhanced maximal responses to the muscarinic receptor agonist carbachol. Although maximal hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (Ptd InsP2) was twofold greater in m1-transfectants as compared with m3-transfectants, cell lines overexpressing either receptor gave essentially equivalent secretory responses to a full range of carbachol doses. The results demonstrate that both m1 and m3 muscarinic receptors are well expressed in pancreatic beta-cells, functionally linked to signaling pathways, and capable of initiating insulin secretion with equal potencies.

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