Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors are found in microvascular endothelial cells. To reveal the functional role in cerebral angiogenic processes, we studied the nicotinic modulation of proliferation activity in cultured bovine and porcine cerebral microvascular endothelial cells. The proliferation activity was determined by an increase in the number of cells present in culture dishes. When the bovine cerebral endothelial cells at different passages were cultured in the presence of nicotine (10 nM), the proliferation activities were significantly increased in the cells at passage 1 and passage 3, but not at passage 4. Reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction studies demonstrated that the expression of mRNAs coding for α3 nicotinic receptor subunit was significantly reduced in the bovine cerebral endothelial cells at passage 4, compared with that at passage 1. The proliferation of porcine cerebral endothelial cells (passage 1) was enhanced by acetylcholine (10 nM—100 μM) in the presence of atropine, a muscarinic antagonist, and this enhancing effect was inhibited by hexamethonium (100 μM, a nicotinic antagonist). The stimulation by acetylcholine (1 μM, with atropine) or nicotine (10 nM) induced the phosphorylation of a mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase (extracellular-signal regulated kinase: ERK) in the serum-starved endothelial cells. In the presence of PD98059 (2 μM, a MAP kinase kinase inhibitor) and atropine, acetylcholine (1 μM) failed to enhance the proliferation of porcine cerebral endothelial cells. These results demonstrate that nicotinic stimulation promotes the proliferation of bovine and porcine cerebral microvascular endothelial cells, at least in part, through the MAP kinase activation.
2004 The Pharmaceutical Society of Japan