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Intracellular potentiation between two second messenger systems may contribute to cholera toxin induced intestinal secretion in humans


Background: Cholera toxin (CT) acts on intestinal epithelial cells both directly and indirectly via activation of a secretory neural reflex. The reflex may release acetylcholine as one of its final neurotransmitters. This opens up the possibility of a third mechanism of action for CT, namely a synergistic interaction between two secretagogues acting on different second messenger systems within the epithelial cell.

Aims: To establish evidence for cholinergic innervation to human ileal epithelial cells and to investigate whether CT potentiates the action of acetylcholine on human intestinal epithelial cells.

Methods: Transverse sections of human ileum were examined for mucosal cholinergic nerves and M3 muscarinic receptors using antibodies raised to choline acetyltransferase and M3 receptors. Short circuit current (Isc) responses and ion flux movements were elicited from T84 epithelial cell monolayers set up in Ussing chambers.

Results: Immunohistochemistry of native human ileal mucosa revealed the presence of both cholinergic nerves and muscarinic M3 receptors located to the basolateral domain of epithelial cells. Secretory responses of T84 cell monolayers to acetylcholine were greatly potentiated in the presence of CT. This effect, substituting forskolin for CT, was mirrored by increases in basolateral 86Rb and apical 125I efflux. Charybdotoxin plus apamin reduced both Isc and 86Rb efflux evoked by acetylcholine, in the presence of forskolin.

Conclusions: Human ileal mucosa receives a direct cholinergic innervation to its epithelial cells. Secretory effects of acetylcholine on epithelial cells are augmented in the presence of CT. Such a synergistic response is dependent on optimum opening of basolateral potassium channels by acetylcholine and apical chloride channels by CT. The interaction may contribute to the mechanism of action of cholera toxin induced secretory diarrhoea.

  • acetylcholine
  • cholera toxin
  • intestinal secretion
  • T84 cell line
  • muscarinic receptors
  • ileal mucosa
  • cholinergic nerves
  • CT, cholera toxin
  • Isc, short circuit current
  • IBMX, 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine
  • VIP, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide
  • PGP, protein gene product
  • ChAT, choline acetyltransferase
  • TBS, Tris buffered saline
  • M3, muscarinic type 3 receptor
  • TER, transepithelial resistance

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