The cholinergic system is involved in regulation of the development of the hematopoietic system

Life Sci. 2007 May 30;80(24-25):2352-60. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2007.04.017. Epub 2007 Apr 29.


Gene expression profiling demonstrated that components of the cholinergic system, including choline acetyltransferase, acetylcholinesterase and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), are expressed in embryonic stem cells and differentiating embryoid bodies (EBs). Triggering of nAChRs expressed in EBs by nicotine resulted in activation of MAPK and shifts of spontaneous differentiation toward hemangioblast. In vivo, non-neural nAChRs are detected early during development in fetal sites of hematopoiesis. Similarly, in vivo exposure of the developing embryo to nicotine resulted in higher numbers of hematopoietic progenitors in fetal liver. However postpartum, the number of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) was decreased, suggesting an impaired colonization of the fetal bone marrow with HSPCs. This correlated with increased number of circulating HSPC and decreased expression of CXCR4 that mediates migration of circulating cells into the bone marrow regulatory niche. In addition, protein microarrays demonstrated that nicotine changed the profile of cytokines produced in the niche. While the levels of IL1alpha, IL1beta, IL2, IL9 and IL10 were not changed, the production of hematopoiesis-supportive cytokines including G-CSF, GM-CSF, IL3, IL6 and IGFBP-3 was decreased. This correlated with the decreased repopulating ability of HSPC in vivo and diminished hematopoietic activity in bone marrow cultures treated with nicotine. Interestingly, nicotine stimulated the production of IL4 and IL5, implying a possible role of the cholinergic system in pathogenesis of allergic diseases. Our data provide evidence that the nicotine-induced imbalance of the cholinergic system during gestation interferes with normal development and provides the basis for negative health outcomes postpartum in active and passive smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / genetics*
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / genetics*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism
  • Hematopoietic System / embryology
  • Hematopoietic System / growth & development
  • Hematopoietic System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / analysis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1 / analysis
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Nicotine
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens