Both muscarinic and nicotinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptors are known to be present on the surface of lymphocytes. We have shown that variable amounts of ACh are detectable in the blood of various mammals including humans, and a major portion of blood ACh is localized in circulating mononuclear leukocytes in humans. In order to investigate which types of blood cell are the source of ACh in human blood, expression of mRNA for choline acetyltransferase (CHAT, EC 184.108.40.206), which catalyzes ACh synthesis, was analyzed using human leukemic cell lines as models of lymphocytes and the reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method. We observed that mRNA for the same ChAT as that in the nervous system is expressed constitutively in all the T- cell lines tested, but not in B-, pre-lymphoma or monocytic cell lines. Furthermore, only T-cell lines showed high ACh-synthesizing activities and intracellular ACh contents. These results suggest that the major portion of ACh in the circulating blood originates from T-lymphocytes.
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