Roles of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in stem cell survival/apoptosis, proliferation and differentiation

J. X. Shen, D. Qin, H. Wang, C. Wu, F. D. Shi, J. Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The potential of stem cells in regenerative medicine, developmental biology, and drug discovery has been well documented. For example, stem cells have the extraordinary ability of self-renewal, and also give rise to many specialized cells. It is clear that stem cell technology has revolutionized our understanding of modern biology and medicine and provided new insights into the mechanisms controlling basic cell biology and various diseases. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are prototypical members of the ligand-gated ion channel super family of neurotransmitter receptors that play many critical roles in brain and body function. It has been demonstrated that in addition to mediation of classical excitatory neurotransmission at some loci and modulation of release of neurotransmitters in some cases, nAChRs also play important roles in influencing synaptic architecture and plasticity as well as neuronal survival/death. Recently, emerging lines of evidence have suggested that nAChRs express on stem cells, where they likely mediate crucial effects of cholinergic signaling on stem cell survival/apoptosis, proliferation, differentiation and maturation. In this review, we summarize current development in cholinergic modulations of stem cell survival/apoptosis, proliferation and differentiation in order to evaluate the impact of nAChRs in stem cell biology and pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1464
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Molecular Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cholinergic signaling
  • Differentiation
  • Nicotine
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor
  • Progenitor cell
  • Proliferation
  • Stem cell
  • Survival/apoptosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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