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Front Pharmacol. 2019 Feb 26;10:128. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00128. eCollection 2019.

Activation of Nicotinic Acetylcholine α7 Receptor Attenuates Progression of Monocrotaline-Induced Pulmonary Hypertension in Rats by Downregulating the NLRP3 Inflammasome.

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Department of Ultrasound, The Cardiovascular Disease Institute, The First Affiliated Hospital to Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
Department of Cardiology, The First Affiliated Hospital to Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
Department of Pathology, The First Affiliated Hospital to Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
The Experimental Center of Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.


Background: Inflammation and altered immunity contribute to the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PH). The alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) possesses anti-inflammatory activities. The current study was performed to investigate the effects of a selective α7nAChR agonist, PNU-282987, on controlling a monocrotaline (MCT)-induced rat model of PH and explored the underlying mechanisms. Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were injected with MCT and treated with PNU-282987 at the prevention (starting 1 week before MCT) and treatment (starting 2 weeks after MCT) settings. Four weeks after MCT injection, hemodynamic changes, right ventricular structure, and lung morphological features were assessed. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, Western blot and qRT-PCR were performed to assess levels of inflammatory cytokines and NLRP3 (Nod-like receptor family pyrin domain-containing 3) inflammasome pathway in the rat lung tissues. In addition, the lung macrophage line NR8383 was used to confirm the in vivo data. Results: Monocrotaline injection produced PH in rats and downregulated α7nAChR mRNA and protein expression in rat lung tissues compared to sham controls. Pharmacological activation of α7nAChR by PNU-282987 therapy improved the rat survival rate, attenuated the development of PH as assessed by remodeling of pulmonary arterioles, reduced the right ventricular (RV) systolic pressure, and ameliorated the hypertrophy and fibrosis of the RV in rats with MCT-induced PH. The expression of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-1β, and IL-18 were downregulated in rat lung tissues, which implied that PNU-282987 therapy may help regulate inflammation. These protective effects involved the inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome. In vitro assays of cultured rat lung macrophages confirmed that the anti-inflammation effect of PNU-282987 therapy may contribute to the disturbance of NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Conclusion: Targeting α7nAChR with PNU-282987 could effectively prevent and treat PH with benefits for preventing ongoing inflammation in the lungs of rats with MCT-induced PH by inhibiting NLRP3 inflammasome activation.


NLRP3 inflammasome; inflammation; pulmonary hypertension; pulmonary vascular remodeling; α7nACh nicotinic acetylcholine receptor

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