Non-neuronal release of ACh plays a key role in secretory response to luminal propionate in rat colon


Corresponding author T. Yajima: Meiji Dairies Research Chair, Creative Research Institution, Hokkaido University, Kita 21-Nishi 10, Kita-ku, Sapporo 001-0025, Japan.  Email:


Non-technical summary ACh is the best characterized neurotransmitter that is synthesized in cholinergic neurons in the brain and gut wall. In the gut, acetylcholine is released from the nerve endings in response to luminal stimuli and regulates the movement of gut contents via stimulating muscle contraction and epithelial ion secretion. We show that acetylcholine is synthesized in colonic epithelial cells and released on the serosal side by luminal chemical stimulation of the short chain fatty acid propionate and causes chloride secretion. These results suggest that non-neuronal release of acetylcholine in response to luminal stimuli plays a role in colonic chloride secretion.


Abstract  Colonic chloride secretion is induced by chemical stimuli via the enteric nervous reflex. We have previously demonstrated that propionate stimulates chloride secretion via sensory and cholinergic systems of the mucosa in rat distal colon. In this study, we demonstrate non-neuronal release of ACh in the secretory response to propionate using an Ussing chamber. Mucosa preparations from the colon, not including the myenteric and submucosal plexuses, were used. Luminal addition of propionate and serosal addition of ACh caused biphasic changes in short-circuit current (Isc). TTX (1 μm) had no effects, while atropine (10 μm) significantly inhibited the Isc response to propionate and abolished that to ACh. In response to luminal propionate stimulation, ACh was released into the serosal fluid. A linear relationship was observed between the maximal increase in Isc and the amounts of ACh released 5 min after propionate stimulation. This ACh release induced by propionate was not affected by atropine and bumetanide, although both drugs significantly reduced the Isc responses to propionate. Luminal addition of 3-chloropropionate, an inactive analogue of propionate, abolished both ACh release and Isc response produced by propionate. RT-PCR analysis indicated that isolated crypt cells from the distal colon expressed an enzyme of ACh synthesis (ChAT) and transporters of organic cation (OCTs), but not neuronal CHT1 and VAChT. The isolated crypt cells contained comparable amounts of ACh to the residual muscle tissues including nerve plexuses. In conclusion, the non-neuronal release of ACh from colonocytes coupled with propionate stimulation plays a key role in chloride secretion, via the paracrine action of ACh on muscarinic receptors of colonocytes.