Human keratinocytes synthesize, secrete, and degrade acetylcholine

Sergei A. Grando, David A. Kist, Mei Qi, Mark V Dahl

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225 Scopus citations


We previously reported that normal human keratinocytes express muscarinic receptors, and that acetylcholine induces attachment of these cells to each other. We have now studied the ability of human keratinocytes to synthesize, secrete, and degrade acetylcholine. To detect and localize the synthesizing enzyme choline acetyltransferase and degrading enzyme acetylcholinesterase, cultured cells and cryostat sections of normal human skin were pre-incubated with specific monoclonal antibodies and stained with an avidin-biotin complex/ alkaline phosphatase. The choline acetyltransferase activity was assessed by the conversion of [3h]acetyl CoA to [3h]acetylcholine, and newly synthesized [3h]acetylcholine was detected using thin-layer chromatography. The acetylcholinesterase activity was measured spectrophotometrically. Both cholinergic enzymes were present in cultured keratinocytes, and in basal, spinous and granular epidermal cell layers. Choline acetyltransferase was visualized in the vicinity of cell nuclei, and acetylcholinesterase was observed in or near cell membranes. Newly synthesized acetylcholine was detected in both cell homogenates and culture supernatants. The estimated Vmax of the synthesis of labeled acetylcholine by homogenized keratinocytes was about 20 pmoles acetylcholine produced/mg protein/min at 37°C. A single keratinocyte synthesized a mean of 2 × 10-17 moles, and released 7 × 10-19 moles acetylcholine per minute. Both cell homogenates and culture supernatants exhibited similar acetylcholinesterase activities indicating that human keratinocytes secrete acetylcholinesterase, too. Thus, we have demonstrated that normal human keratinocytes possess choline acetyltransferase and acetylcholinesterase, and synthesize, store, release, and degrade acetylcholine. Because human keratinocytes can also respond to acetylcholine, we believe that keratinocyte acetylcholine works in the epidermis as a local hormone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-36
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1993

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Palll L. Bigliardi, M.D. for help !Vith immll,lOblotting experiments. This study !Vas sJlpported by internalfllllds of Department of Dermatology ofUniversity of MitJlJ esota Medical School, and by a grant from the Minnesota Medical FOlludatiotJ.


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