Muscarinic Receptors in Adrenal Chromaffin Cells: Physiological Role and Regulation of Ion Channels

Pflugers Arch. 2018 Jan;470(1):29-38. doi: 10.1007/s00424-017-2047-2. Epub 2017 Jul 31.


Adrenal medullary chromaffin cells in mammals are innervated by sympathetic preganglionic nerve fibers, as are sympathetic ganglion neurons. Acetylcholine in the ganglion neurons is well established as mediating fast and slow excitatory postsynaptic potentials through nicotinic and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs), respectively. The role of muscarinic AChRs during neuronal transmission in chromaffin cells varies among different mammals. Furthermore, the ion channel mechanisms associated with the muscarinic AChR-mediated increase in excitability of chromaffin cells are complicated and different from the excitation of ganglion neurons, which has been ascribed to the inhibition of M-type K+ channels. In this review, we focus on muscarinic receptor-mediated excitation in rodent and guinea pig chromaffin cells, in particular, on the role of muscarinic receptors in neuronal transmission, the muscarinic receptor subtypes involved in excitation and secretion, and the muscarinic regulation of ion channels including TWIK-related acid-sensitive K+ channels. Finally, we discuss prospectively the future of muscarinic receptor research in adrenal chromaffin cells.

Keywords: Acetylcholine; Adrenal chromaffin cell; Muscarinic receptor; TASK channel; TRPC channel.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adrenal Medulla / cytology*
  • Adrenal Medulla / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chromaffin Cells / metabolism*
  • Chromaffin Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / metabolism*
  • TRPC Cation Channels / metabolism*


  • Potassium Channels
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • TRPC Cation Channels