Nitric oxide (NO) synthase mRNA expression and NO production via muscarinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated pathways in the CEM, human leukemic T-cell line

Life Sci. 2003 Mar 28;72(18-19):2151-4. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(03)00076-6.


Nitric oxide (NO) is synthesized from L-arginine by neuronal, endothelial and inducible isoforms of NO synthase (nNOS, eNOS and iNOS, respectively) and is involved in the regulation of a variety of physiological functions, including immune activity. In vascular endothelial cells, stimulation of M(3) subtype of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) triggers NO synthesis by eNOS. Human lymphocytes express several mAChR subtypes and their stimulation increases the intracellular free Ca(2+) concentration and up-regulates c-fos gene expression. While the above findings suggest involvement of the lymphocytic cholinergic system in the regulation of immune function, little is known on NOS expression and NO synthesis in T-lymphocytes. In the present study, using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we found that CEM cells express mRNAs encoding iNOS and nNOS, but not for eNOS. In addition, using quantitative fluorescence microscopy and a novel NO-sensitive fluorescent indicator, DAF-2, we found that oxotremorine-M (Oxo-M) (100 microM), a non-selective mAChR agonist, enhances NO production in the cells. This effect of Oxo-M was antagonized by pirenzepine (10 microM), an antagonist acting preferentially at M(1) mAChR and by atropine (10 microM). Also 4-DAMP (10 microM), an antagonist acting preferentially at M(3) mAChR, reduced significantly the effect of Oxo-M, while AFDX-116 (10 microM), an antagonist acting preferentially at M(2) mAChR, was ineffective. These findings suggest that T-lymphocytes express functional mAChRs linked to NO synthesis by nNOS and/or iNOS.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / biosynthesis
  • Leukemia, T-Cell / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Isoenzymes
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase