Nicotine Inhibits Apoptosis and Stimulates Proliferation in Aortic Smooth Muscle Cells Through a Functional Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor

Alessandra Cucina, Andrea Fuso, Pierpaolo Coluccia, Antonino Cavallaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Atherosclerosis and neointimal hyperplasia formation are induced by alterations in the homeostatic balance between cell growth and cell death. Apoptosis is a physiological cell death process that, when deregulated, may be involved in many pathological conditions. Cigarette smoking is a primary risk factor for vascular disease and nicotine seems to exert its atherogenic effects in part through the increase of smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of nicotine on SMC apoptosis. Nicotine added for 24 and 72 h to serum deprived cell cultures resulted in a decrease of apoptotic SMCs. The inhibition was direct and not mediated by platelet-derived growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, and transforming growth factor β1, autocrinally released by nicotine-treated SMCs, because it was not influenced by addition of specific neutralizing antibodies. Apoptosis inhibition as well as the proliferation increase, and basic fibroblast growth factor expression on nicotine-treated SMCs were blocked by nicotinic acetylcholine receptor antagonists, including α-bungarotoxin, a competitive antagonist of α subunits of nicotinic receptor. In conclusion, we propose that nicotine could lead to the increase of neointimal SMCs in vascular lesions by inducing the inhibition of physiological SMC apoptosis and the increase of SMC proliferation. We also showed that nicotine signaling occurs as a result of activation of the classical nicotine receptor pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-235
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008



  • apoptosis
  • atherosclerosis
  • nicotine
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • smooth muscle cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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