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Neurotoxicology. 1994 Winter;15(4):877-86.

Carbon dioxide potentiates the mitogenic effects of nicotine and its carcinogenic derivative, NNK, in normal and neoplastic neuroendocrine lung cells via stimulation of autocrine and protein kinase C-dependent mitogenic pathways.

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  • 1Carcinogenesis and Developmental Therapeutics Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 37901, USA.


It has been shown that chronic lung diseases which increase the concentration of pulmonary carbon dioxide (CO2) at the expense of oxygen stimulate the secretion of biogenic amines and neuropeptides by pulmonary neuroendocrine cells (PNE cells) in man and laboratory animals. This increase in secretory activity is always accompanied by hyperplasia of PNE cells, and smokers with chronic obstructive lung disease are at high risk for the development of neuroendocrine lung cancer. We have previously shown that nicotine and the structurally related nitrosamine, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), stimulate the proliferation of neuroendocrine cell lines derived from lung carcinoid tumors via interaction with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR). In our current experiment, we have addressed the mechanisms of cell proliferation in response to nicotine and NNK in normal PNE cells derived from fetal hamster lungs, and two cell lines derived from human neuroendocrine lung cancers. Our data show that in these systems the mitogenic effects of nicotine and NNK are potentiated in a concentration-dependent manner by elevated levels of CO2, an effect blocked by inhibitors of protein kinase C(PKC) and reduced by antagonists of receptors for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) and mammalian bombesin. The observed effects of CO2 were saturable and independent of changes in the acidity of the tissue culture media. Our data suggest that increases in CO2 concentration at the expense of oxygen may stimulate signal transduction pathways in normal and neoplastic neuroendocrine lung cells thus enhancing their susceptibility to the mitogenic effects of tobacco-specific toxicants.

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