Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor activation increases transcellular transport of macromolecules across mouse and human intestinal epithelium in vitro


Dr Mary H. Perdue, Intestinal Disease Research Program, McMaster University, HSC-3N5C, 1200 Main St W, Hamilton ON, Canada L8N 3Z5.
Tel: +1 905 525 9140 x22591;


Abstract  The intestinal epithelium acts as a barrier restricting uptake of luminal macromolecules such as dietary antigens and microbes. Here, we examined the role of cholinergic signalling in the regulation of permeability to macromolecules. Mouse jejunum was mounted in Ussing chambers and permeability was determined by measuring the flux of the antigen-sized protein, horseradish peroxidase (HRP), across the tissue. Baseline HRP permeability was significantly reduced by neural blockade with tetrodotoxin or cholinergic muscarinic antagonism with atropine, suggesting that ongoing release of endogenous acetylcholine from enteric nerves regulates barrier function. Exogenous addition of the muscarinic agonist bethanechol caused significant increases in both HRP flux and the area of HRP-containing endosomes in enterocytes. Bethanechol-enhanced HRP flux was abrogated by the M3 receptor antagonist, 4-diphenylacetoxy-N-methylpiperidine methiodide (4-DAMP), the phospholipase A2 inhibitor quinacrine, and the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin. Complementary in vitro studies showed direct effects of bethanechol on T84 epithelial cells, where increased HRP uptake was associated with increased F-actin, and increased cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2) phosphorylation. Taken together, these results provide evidence for cholinergic regulation of transepithelial transport of macromolecules, mainly mediated by activation of M3 receptors with subsequent involvement of phospholipase A2 and cyclooxygenase products.