Non-neuronal cholinergic system in airways and lung cancer susceptibility

Laura Saracino, Michele Zorzetto, Simona Inghilleri, Ernesto Pozzi, Giulia Maria Stella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the airway tract acetylcholine (ACh) is known to be the mediator of the parasympathetic nervous system. However ACh is also synthesized by a large variety of non-neuronal cells. Strongest expression is documented in neuroendocrine and in epithelial cells (ciliated, basal and secretory elements). Growing evidence suggests that a cell-type specific Ach expression and release do exist and act with local autoparacrine loop in the non-neuronal airway compartment. Here we review the molecular mechanism by which Ach is involved in regulating various aspects of innate mucosal defense, including mucociliary clearance, regulation of macrophage activation as well as in promoting epithelial cells proliferation and conferring susceptibility to lung carcinoma onset. Importantly this non-neuronal cholinergic machinery is differently regulated than the neuronal one and could be specifically therapeutically targeted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Lung Cancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Actionable target
  • Cancer susceptibility
  • Cholinergic system
  • Innate defense
  • Non-neuronal compartment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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