Cultures of airway parasympathetic nerves express functional M2 muscarinic receptors

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1996 Dec;15(6):716-25. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.15.6.8969265.


To study the control of acetylcholine release from airway parasympathetic neurons, primary cultures of these cells were established. Guinea pig tracheas were disaggregated with collagenase and plated onto matrigel-coated plates in medium that contained cytosine arabinoside to inhibit growth of dividing cells. Over 7 to 10 days neurites grow from the cell bodies, reaching a length of 2 mm. The vast majority of the cells in these cultures were neurons, as identified by morphology and staining with Neurotag and with antibody to neuron-specific antigen protein gene product 9.5. Cultured neurons contained acetylcholine, which was released by electrical field stimulation. Thus these were parasympathetic neurons. Staining with antibodies to M1, M2, and M4 muscarinic receptors revealed the presence of only M2 receptors. Likewise, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction using primers for M1, M2, and M4 muscarinic receptors revealed mRNA only for M2 receptors. Blocking these M2 receptors using atropine potentiated the stimulated release of acetylcholine, demonstrating that the M2 receptors inhibit acetylcholine release, as they have been shown to do in vivo. Thus airway parasympathetic neurons can be grown in culture, they retain the ability to synthesize and release acetylcholine, and they express functional inhibitory M2 muscarinic receptors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Methacholine Chloride / pharmacology
  • Muscarinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / chemistry*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / analysis*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / physiology
  • Trachea / innervation*


  • Muscarinic Agonists
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Methacholine Chloride
  • Atropine
  • Acetylcholine