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Keywords:

  • Acetylcholine (Ach);
  • Muscarinic Ach receptor (mAchR);
  • Neural stem cells (NSCs);
  • Differentiation;
  • Calcium imaging

Abstract

Neural stem cells (NSCs) are currently considered powerful candidates for cell therapy in neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. However, it is not known when and how NSCs begin to differentiate functionally. Recent reports suggest that classical neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine (Ach) are involved in the proliferation and differentiation of neural progenitor cells, suggesting that neurotransmitters play an important regulatory role in development of the central nervous system (CNS). We have shown by calcium imaging and immunochemistry that proliferation and differentiation are enhanced by M2 muscarinic Ach receptors (mAchR) expressed on the NSC surface and on their neural progeny. Moreover, atropine, an mAchR antagonist, blocks the enhancement and inhibits the subsequent differentiation of NSCs. Further understanding of this neural-nutrition role of Ach might elucidate fetal brain development, the brain's response to injury, and learning and memory.