Contributions of Non-Neuronal Cholinergic Systems to the Regulation of Immune Cell Function, Highlighting the Role of α7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

Int J Mol Sci. 2024 Apr 22;25(8):4564. doi: 10.3390/ijms25084564.


Loewi’s discovery of acetylcholine (ACh) release from the frog vagus nerve and the discovery by Dale and Dudley of ACh in ox spleen led to the demonstration of chemical transmission of nerve impulses. ACh is now well-known to function as a neurotransmitter. However, advances in the techniques for ACh detection have led to its discovery in many lifeforms lacking a nervous system, including eubacteria, archaea, fungi, and plants. Notably, mRNAs encoding choline acetyltransferase and muscarinic and nicotinic ACh receptors (nAChRs) have been found in uninnervated mammalian cells, including immune cells, keratinocytes, vascular endothelial cells, cardiac myocytes, respiratory, and digestive epithelial cells. It thus appears that non-neuronal cholinergic systems are expressed in a variety of mammalian cells, and that ACh should now be recognized not only as a neurotransmitter, but also as a local regulator of non-neuronal cholinergic systems. Here, we discuss the role of non-neuronal cholinergic systems, with a focus on immune cells. A current focus of much research on non-neuronal cholinergic systems in immune cells is α7 nAChRs, as these receptors expressed on macrophages and T cells are involved in regulating inflammatory and immune responses. This makes α7 nAChRs an attractive potential therapeutic target.

PMID:38674149 | DOI:10.3390/ijms25084564