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Mol Med. 2008 Sep-Oct;14(9-10):567-74. doi: 10.2119/2008-00079.Parrish.

Modulation of TNF release by choline requires alpha7 subunit nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated signaling.

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Laboratory of Biomedical Science, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Manhasset, New York 11030, USA.


The alpha7 subunit-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (alpha7nAChR) is an essential component in the vagus nerve-based cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway that regulates the levels of TNF, high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), and other cytokines during inflammation. Choline is an essential nutrient, a cell membrane constituent, a precursor in the biosynthesis of acetylcholine, and a selective natural alpha7nAChR agonist. Here, we studied the anti-inflammatory potential of choline in murine endotoxemia and sepsis, and the role of the alpha7nAChR in mediating the suppressive effect of choline on TNF release. Choline (0.1-50 mM) dose-dependently suppressed TNF release from endotoxin-activated RAW macrophage-like cells, and this effect was associated with significant inhibition of NF-kappaB activation. Choline (50 mg/kg, intraperitoneally [i.p.]) treatment prior to endotoxin administration in mice significantly reduced systemic TNF levels. In contrast to its TNF suppressive effect in wild type mice, choline (50 mg/kg, i.p.) failed to inhibit systemic TNF levels in alpha7nAChR knockout mice during endotoxemia. Choline also failed to suppress TNF release from endotoxin-activated peritoneal macrophages isolated from alpha7nAChR knockout mice. Choline treatment prior to endotoxin resulted in a significantly improved survival rate as compared with saline-treated endotoxemic controls. Choline also suppressed HMGB1 release in vitro and in vivo, and choline treatment initiated 24 h after cecal ligation and puncture (CLP)-induced polymicrobial sepsis significantly improved survival in mice. In addition, choline suppressed TNF release from endotoxin-activated human whole blood and macrophages. Collectively, these data characterize the anti-inflammatory efficacy of choline and demonstrate that the modulation of TNF release by choline requires alpha7nAChR-mediated signaling.

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