Acetylcholine mediated vasodilatation in the microcirculation of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Apr;70(4):403-7. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2003.12.016.


The aetiology of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) remains controversial and a number of hypotheses have been put forward to explain it. Research into the condition is hindered by the considerable heterogeneity seen across patients but several reports have highlighted disturbances to cholinergic mechanisms in terms of central nervous system activity, neuromuscular function and autoantibodies to muscarinic cholinergic receptors. This paper examines an altogether separate function for acetylcholine and that is its role as an important and generalized vasodilator. Most diseases are accompanied by a blunted response to acetylcholine but the opposite is true for CFS. Such sensitivity is normally associated with physical training so the finding in CFS is anomalous and may well be relevant to vascular symptoms that characterise many patients. There are several mechanisms that might lead to ACh endothelial sensitivity in CFS patients and various experiments have been designed to unravel the enigma. These are reported here.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology*
  • Acetylcholine / therapeutic use
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / blood
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation / drug effects*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Acetylcholine