(1) Background: The lung cholinergic pathway is important for controlling pulmonary inflammation in acute lung injury, a condition that is characterized by a sudden onset and intense inflammation. This study investigated changes in the expression levels of nicotinic and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR and mAChR) in the lung during acute lung injury. (2) Methods: acute lung injury (ALI) was induced in wild-type and cholinergic-deficient (VAChT-KDHOM) mice using intratracheal lipopolysaccharide (LPS) instillation with or without concurrent treatment with nicotinic ligands. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid was collected to evaluate markers of inflammation, and then the lung was removed and processed for isolation of membrane fraction and determination of acetylcholine receptors level using radioligand binding assays. (3) Results: LPS-induced increase in lung inflammatory markers (e.g., neutrophils and IL-1β) was significantly higher in VAChT-KDHOM than wild-type mice. In contrast, LPS treatment resulted in a significant increase in lung's α7 nicotinic receptor level in wild type, but not in VAChT-KDHOM mice. However, treatment with PNU 282987, a selective α7 nicotinic receptor agonist, restored VAChT-KDHOM mice's ability to increase α7 nicotinic receptor levels in response to LPS induced acute lung injury and reduced lung inflammation. LPS also increased muscarinic receptors level in VAChT-KDHOM mice, and PNU 282987 treatment reduced this response. (4) Conclusions: Our data indicate that the anti-inflammatory effects of the lung cholinergic system involve an increase in the level of α7 nicotinic receptors. Pharmacological agents that increase the expression or the function of lung α7 nicotinic receptors have potential clinical uses for treating acute lung injury.


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI)

Date of publication

Summer 7-14-2021



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