Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors alpha4beta2 and alpha7 regulate myelo- and erythropoiesis within the bone marrow

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2008;40(5):980-90. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2007.11.006. Epub 2007 Nov 17.


Nicotine consumed upon smoking affects numerous physiological processes through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, which mediate cholinergic regulation by the neuronal and endogenous acetylcholine. Consequently, nicotinic receptors are expressed in many non-excitable tissues including the blood. In spite of the documented effect of nicotine on hematopoiesis, little is known about the expression and role of nicotinic receptors in the course of blood cell differentiation. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether and how nicotinic receptors are involved in the development of myeloid and erythroid cells within the bone marrow. The presence of nicotinic receptors containing alpha4(beta2) and alpha7 subunits in the bone marrow cells of C57Bl/6 mice was shown by the binding of [125I]-alpha-bungarotoxin or [3H]-Epibatidine and by flow cytometry with subunit-specific antibodies or fluorescein-labeled alpha-cobratoxin. Both TER119+ (erythroid) and CD16+CD43med (myeloid) progenitor cells bound more alpha4-specific antibodies than their mature forms, while the binding of alpha-cobratoxin and alpha7-specific antibodies was also high in mature cells. According to morphological analysis, either the absence of alpha7-containing nicotinic receptors in knockout mice or their desensitization in mice chronically treated with nicotine decreased the number of myeloid and erythroid progenitors and junior cells. In contrast, the absence of beta2-containing receptors favored myelocyte generation and erythroid cell maturation. It is concluded that the development of both myeloid and erythroid cell lineages is regulated by endogenous cholinergic ligands and can be affected by nicotine through alpha7- and alpha4beta2-containing nicotinic receptors, which play different roles in the course of the cell maturation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Bone Marrow Cells / chemistry
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Erythropoiesis*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myelopoiesis*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / immunology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Antibodies
  • Chrna7 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • nicotinic receptor alpha4beta2