The mammalian immune system and the nervous system coevolved under the influence of cellular and environmental stress. Cellular stress is associated with changes in immunity and activation of the NACHT, LRR and PYD domains-containing protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, a key component of innate immunity. Here we show that alpha 7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (alpha 7 nAchR)-signaling inhibits inflammasome activation and prevents release of mitochondrial DNA, an NLRP3 ligand. Cholinergic receptor agonists or vagus nerve stimulation significantly inhibits inflammasome activation, whereas genetic deletion of alpha 7 nAchR significantly enhances inflammasome activation. Acetylcholine accumulates in macrophage cytoplasm after adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stimulation in an alpha 7 nAchR-independent manner. Acetylcholine significantly attenuated calcium or hydrogen oxide-induced mitochondrial damage and mitochondrial DNA release. Together, these findings reveal a novel neurotransmitter-mediated signaling pathway: acetylcholine translocates into the cytoplasm of immune cells during inflammation and inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation by preventing mitochondrial DNA release.
Faculty; Northwell Researcher
School of Medicine; Northwell Health