The finding that neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are present in non-neuronal cells both within and outside the nervous system raises some interesting issues. The mechanisms underlying receptor signaling and its downstream consequences in these cells remain to be elucidated. Factors controlling the release of acetylcholine and the extent of its diffusion are likely to be different for these cells than for traditional neuronal synapses. Recent advances on the physiologic functions of some of these cell types have provided a better insight into possible functional roles for nAChRs in nonexcitable cells. The presence of nAChRs on these cells also implies a broader scope for the actions of nicotine that needs to be considered from a clinical viewpoint. Revealing the potential physiologic roles for nAChRs on nonexcitable cells is likely to provide a more complete understanding of cholinergic signaling.
Copyright 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.