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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2013 Jun 7;435(3):447-53. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2013.05.006. Epub 2013 May 10.

Acetylcholine receptors regulate gene expression that is essential for primitive streak formation in murine embryoid bodies.

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Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Medical Research Institute, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 1-5-45 Yushima, Tokyo 113-8510, Japan.


Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAchRs) are critical components of the cholinergic system, which is the key regulator of both the central and peripheral nervous systems in mammals. Interestingly, several components of the cholinergic system, including mAchRs and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), have recently been found to be expressed in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells and human placenta. These results raise the intriguing possibility that mAchRs play physiological roles in the regulation of early embryogenesis. Early embryogenesis can be mimicked in vitro using an ES cell-based culture system in which the cells form a primitive streak-like structure and efficiently develop into mesodermal progenitors. Here we report that chemical inhibitors specifically targeting mAchRs suppressed the expression of genes essential for primitive streak formation, including Wnt3, and thereby blocked mesodermal progenitor differentiation. Interestingly, mAchR inhibitors also reduced the expression of Cyp26a1, an enzyme involved in the catabolism of retinoic acid (RA). RA is an important regulator of Wnt3 signaling. Our study presents evidence indicating that mAchRs influence RA signaling necessary for the induction of the primitive streak. To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that mAchRs have important functions not only in adult mammals but also during early mammalian embryogenesis.

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