The non-neuronal cholinergic system of human skin

Horm Metab Res. 2007 Feb;39(2):125-35. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-961816.


In human skin both resident and transiently residing cells are part of the extra- or non-neuronal cholinergic system, creating a highly complex and interconnected cosmos in which acetylcholine (ACh) and choline are the natural ligands of nicotinic and muscarinic receptors with regulatory function in both physiology and pathophysiology. ACh is produced in keratinocytes, endothelial cells and most notably in immune competent cells invading the skin at sites of inflammation. The cholinergic system is involved in basic functions of the skin through autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine mechanisms, like keratinocyte proliferation, differentiation, adhesion and migration, epidermal barrier formation, pigment-, sweat- and sebum production, blood circulation, angiogenesis, and a variety of immune reactions. The pathophysiological consequences of this complex cholinergic "concert" are only beginning to be understood. The present review aims at providing insight into basic mechanisms of this highly complex system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Choline / metabolism*
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Keratinocytes / physiology
  • Melanocytes / drug effects
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology


  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine