Life sciences

Expression and possible functions of the cholinergic system in a murine embryonic stem cell line.

PMID 17459421


The expression of a cholinergic system during embryonic development is a widespread phenomenon. However, no precise function could be assigned to it during early pre-neural stages and there are only few studies that document when it precisely starts to be expressed. Here, we examined the expression of cholinergic components in a murine embryonic stem cell line by RT-PCR, histochemistry, and enzyme activity measurements; the acetylcholine (ACh) content was measured by HPLC. We have demonstrated that embryonic stem cells express ACh, acetylcholine receptors, choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), acetyl- and butyryl-cholinesterase (AChE and BChE). Butyryl-cholinesterase (BChE) expression was higher than AChE. The cholinesterase activity was down-regulated by adding specific inhibitors to culture medium. Inhibition of BChE led to a reduction of proliferation. This is the first demonstration that mouse embryonic stem cells express the full molecular equipment of a cholinergic system. Locally produced ACh might function as an intercellular signal, modulating the proliferation of stem cells.