Modulation of cerebral microvascular permeability by endothelial nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

Brian T. Hawkins, Richard D. Egleton, Thomas P. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Nicotine increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier in vivo. This implies a possible role for nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the regulation of cerebral microvascular permeability. Expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits in cerebral microvessels was investigated with immunofluorescence microscopy. Positive immunoreactivity was found for receptor subunits α3, α5, α7, and β2, but not subunits α4, β3, or β4. Blood-brain barrier permeability was assessed via in situ brain perfusion with [14C]sucrose. Nicotine increased the rate of sucrose entry into the brain from 0.3 ± 0.1 to 1.1 ± 0.2 μl·g-1·min-1, as previously described. This nicotine-induced increase in blood-brain barrier permeability was significantly attenuated by both the blood-brain barrier-permeant nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine and the blood-brain barrier-impermeant nicotinic antagonist hexamethonium to 0.5 ± 0.2 and 0.3 ± 0.2 μl·g-1·min-1, respectively. These data suggest that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors expressed on the cerebral microvascular endothelium mediate nicotine-induced changes in blood-brain barrier permeability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H212-H219
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number1 58-1
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Blood-barin barrier
  • Hexamethonium
  • Immunofluorescence microscopy
  • Mecamylamine
  • Nicotine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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