Regulation of immune functions by non-neuronal acetylcholine (Ach) via muscarinic and nicotinic ach receptors

Masato Mashimo, Yasuhiro Moriwaki, Hidemi Misawa, Koichiro Kawashima, Takeshi Fujii

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Acetylcholine (ACh) is the classical neurotransmitter in the cholinergic nervous system. However, ACh is now known to regulate various immune cell functions. In fact, T cells, B cells, and macrophages all express components of the cholinergic system, including ACh, muscarinic, and nicotinic ACh receptors (mAChRs and nAChRs), choline acetyltransferase, acetylcholinesterase, and choline transporters. In this review, we will discuss the actions of ACh in the immune system. We will first briefly describe the mechanisms by which ACh is stored in and released from immune cells. We will then address Ca2+ signaling pathways activated via mAChRs and nAChRs on T cells and B cells, highlighting the importance of ACh for the function of T cells, B cells, and macrophages, as well as its impact on innate and acquired (cellular and humoral) immunity. Lastly, we will discuss the effects of two peptide ligands, secreted lymphocyte antigen-6/urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor-related peptide-1 (SLURP-1) and hippocampal cholinergic neurostimulating peptide (HCNP), on cholinergic activity in T cells. Overall, we stress the fact that ACh does not function only as a neurotransmitter; it impacts immunity by exerting diverse effects on immune cells via mAChRs and nAChRs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6818
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jul 1


  • Acetylcholine
  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Hippocampal cholinergic neurostimulating peptide
  • Lym-phocyte
  • Macrophage
  • Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Secreted lymphocyte antigen-6/urokinase-type plasminogen activator recep-tor-related peptide-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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