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Cancer Res. 1993 Nov 15;53(22):5566-8.

Nicotine stimulates a serotonergic autocrine loop in human small-cell lung carcinoma.

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Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche Center of Cytopharmacology, University of Milan, Italy.


Small-cell lung carcinoma cells express different plasma membrane nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subtypes. We have now found that interacting with these receptors (-)-nicotine induces a dose-dependent and stereoselective release of [3H]serotonin which is dependent on external calcium and blocked by the specific ganglionic nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine. With the same potency (-)-nicotine stimulates tumor cell proliferation, an effect also blocked by mecamylamine. Serotonin itself stimulates cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner, an effect blocked by the selective serotonergic receptor antagonists methiotepine and metergoline. These data suggest that nicotine might affect proliferation of small-cell lung carcinoma cells by inducing the release of hormones (such as serotonin) with autocrine capabilities and place both the nicotinic and the serotonergic receptors at key positions in the biological and, possibly, pharmacological approach to this human lung cancer.

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