Development of epithelial cholinergic chemosensory cells of the urethra and trachea of mice

Cell Tissue Res. 2021 Jul;385(1):21-35. doi: 10.1007/s00441-021-03424-9. Epub 2021 Feb 22.


Cholinergic chemosensory cells (CCC) are infrequent epithelial cells with immunosensor function, positioned in mucosal epithelia preferentially near body entry sites in mammals including man. Given their adaptive capacity in response to infection and their role in combatting pathogens, we here addressed the time points of their initial emergence as well as their postnatal development from first exposure to environmental microbiota (i.e., birth) to adulthood in urethra and trachea, utilizing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)-eGFP reporter mice, mice with genetic deletion of MyD88, toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2), TLR4, TLR2/TLR4, and germ-free mice. Appearance of CCC differs between the investigated organs. CCC of the trachea emerge during embryonic development at E18 and expand further after birth. Urethral CCC show gender diversity and appear first at P6-P10 in male and at P11-P20 in female mice. Urethrae and tracheae of MyD88- and TLR-deficient mice showed significantly fewer CCC in all four investigated deficient strains, with the effect being most prominent in the urethra. In germ-free mice, however, CCC numbers were not reduced, indicating that TLR2/4-MyD88 signaling, but not vita-PAMPs, governs CCC development. Collectively, our data show a marked postnatal expansion of CCC populations with distinct organ-specific features, including the relative impact of TLR2/4-MyD88 signaling. Strong dependency on this pathway (urethra) correlates with absence of CCC at birth and gender-specific initial development and expansion dynamics, whereas moderate dependency (trachea) coincides with presence of first CCC at E18 and sex-independent further development.

Keywords: Brush cells; Chemosensation; Innate immunity; MyD88; Solitary chemosensory cells; Toll-like receptors; Tuft cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cholinergic Agents / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Trachea / physiology*
  • Urethra / physiology*


  • Cholinergic Agents