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Amino Acids. 2013 Jul;45(1):73-85. doi: 10.1007/s00726-011-1192-8. Epub 2011 Dec 23.

Modulation of inflammatory pathways by the immune cholinergic system.

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Department of General Surgery, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel-Aviv, Israel.


Research done in the past years pointed to a novel function of cholinergic transmission. It has been shown that cholinergic transmission can modulate various aspects of the immune function, whether innate or adaptive. Cholinergic transmission affects immune cell proliferation, cytokine production, T helper differentiation and antigen presentation. Theses effects are mediated by cholinergic muscarinic and nicotinic receptors and other cholinergic components present in immune cells, such as acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and cholineacetyltransferase. The α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor was designated anti-inflammatory activity and has shown promise in pre-clinical models of inflammatory disorders. We herein describe the various components of the immune cholinergic system, and specifically the immune suppressive effects of α7 activation. This activation can be accomplished either by direct stimulation or indirectly, by inhibition of AChE. Thus, the presence of the immune cholinergic system can pave the way for novel immunomodulatory agents, or to the broadening of use of known cholinergic agents.

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