Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expression in human airway correlates with lung function

David Chi Leung Lam, Susan Yang Luo, Kin Hang Fu, Macy Mei Sze Lui, Koon Ho Chan, Ignacio Ivans Wistuba, Boning Gao, Sai Wah Tsao, Mary Sau Man Ip, John Dorrance Minna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Nicotine and its derivatives, by binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) on bronchial epithelial cells, can regulate cellular signaling and inflammatory processes. Delineation of nAChR subtypes and their responses to nicotine stimulation in bronchial epithelium may provide information for therapeutic targeting in smoking-related inflammation in the airway. Expression of nAChR subunit genes in 60 bronchial epithelial biopsies and immunohistochemical staining for the subcellular locations of nAChR subunit expression were evaluated. Seven human bronchial epithelial cell lines (HBECs) were exposed to nicotine in vitro for their response in nAChR subunit gene expression to nicotine exposure and removal. The relative normalized amount of expression of nAChR a4, a5, and a7 and immunohistochemical staining intensity of nAChR a4, a5, and β3 expression showed significant correlation with lung function parameters. Nicotine stimulation in HBECs resulted in transient increase in the levels of nAChR a5 and a6 but more sustained increase in nAChR a7 expression. nAChR expression in bronchial epithelium was found to correlate with lung function. Nicotine exposure in HBECs resulted in both short and longer term responses in nAChR subunit gene expression. These results gave insight into the potential of targeting nAChRs for therapy in smoking-related inflammation in the airway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L232-L239
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Bronchial epithelium
  • Lung function
  • Nicotine
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Quantitative polymerase chain reaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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