OPEN Molecular pharmacology | 11 Oct 2013
JC Nordman, P Muldoon, S Clark, IM Damaj and N Kabbani
Smoking is a common addiction and a leading cause of disease. Chronic nicotine exposure is known to activate nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in immune cells. We demonstrate a novel role for α4 nAChRs in the effect of nicotine on T-cell proliferation and immunity. Using cell based sorting and proteomic analysis we define an α4 nAChR expressing helper T-cell population (α4+CD3+CD4+) and show that this group of cells is responsive to sustained nicotine exposure. In circulation, spleen, and thymus we find that nicotine promotes an increase in CD3+CD4+ cells via its activation of the α4 nAChR and regulation of Gαo, Gprin1, and CDC42 signaling within T-cells. In particular, nicotine is found to promote a Th2, adaptive, immunological response within T-cells, which was absent in α4-/- mice. We thus present a new mechanism of α4 nAChR signaling and immune regulation in T-cells, possibly accounting for the effect of smoking on the immune system.
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