Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Aug;130(2):219-34. doi: 10.1007/s00418-008-0455-2. Epub 2008 Jun 20.

The epithelial cholinergic system of the airways.

Author information

  • 1Institute for Anatomy and Cell Biology, Excellence Cluster Cardiopulmonary System, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, 35385, Giessen, Germany.


Acetylcholine (ACh), a classical transmitter of parasympathetic nerve fibres in the airways, is also synthesized by a large number of non-neuronal cells, including airway surface epithelial cells. Strongest expression of cholinergic traits is observed in neuroendocrine and brush cells but other epithelial cell types--ciliated, basal and secretory--are cholinergic as well. There is cell type-specific expression of the molecular pathways of ACh release, including both the vesicular storage and exocytotic release known from neurons, and transmembrane release from the cytosol via organic cation transporters. The subcellular distribution of the ACh release machineries suggests luminal release from ciliated and secretory cells, and basolateral release from neuroendocrine cells. The scenario as known so far strongly suggests a local auto-/paracrine role of epithelial ACh in regulating various aspects on the innate mucosal defence mechanisms, including mucociliary clearance, regulation of macrophage function and modulation of sensory nerve fibre activity. The proliferative effects of ACh gain importance in recently identified ACh receptor disorders conferring susceptibility to lung cancer. The cell type-specific molecular diversity of the epithelial ACh synthesis and release machinery implies that it is differently regulated than neuronal ACh release and can be specifically targeted by appropriate drugs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center