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The synapse is a localized neurohumoral contact between a neuron and an effector cell and may be considered the quantum of fast intercellular communication. Analogously, the postsynaptic neurotransmitter receptor may be considered the quantum of fast chemical to electrical transduction. Our understanding of postsynaptic receptors began to develop about a hundred years ago with the demonstration that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve released acetylcholine and slowed the heart beat. During the past 50 years, advances in understanding postsynaptic receptors increased at a rapid pace, owing largely to studies of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) at the motor endplate. The endplate AChR belongs to a large superfamily of neurotransmitter receptors, called Cys-loop receptors, and has served as an exemplar receptor for probing fundamental structures and mechanisms that underlie fast synaptic transmission in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Recent studies provide an increasingly detailed picture of the structure of the AChR and the symphony of molecular motions that underpin its remarkably fast and efficient chemoelectrical transduction.

Citation

Steven M Sine. End-plate acetylcholine receptor: structure, mechanism, pharmacology, and disease. Physiological reviews. 2012 Jul;92(3):1189-234

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PMID: 22811427

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