We used a sensitive and specific radioimmunoassay for acetylcholine (ACh), and detected significant amounts of ACh in the blood of various mammals, including humans. About 60% of human blood ACh was localized in mononuclear leukocytes. Human leukemic T-cell lines, used as T-lymphocyte models, contained both ACh and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) activity. Furthermore, ChAT mRNA and protein were detected in the T-cell line MOLT-3. Phytohemagglutinin, a T-cell activator, increased both synthesis and release of ACh by MOLT-3 cells. Muscarinic receptor subtype mRNA expression was confirmed in various T-cell lines. These findings indicate that ACh synthesized by ChAT in T-lymphocytes acts on the muscarinic receptors on lymphocytes in autocrine and/or paracrine pathways and suggest that ACh in blood functions as a modulator of T-cell-dependent immune responses.
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