Characterisation of Nicotine Binding Sites on Human Blood Lymphocytes
Nicotine exerts a therapeutic effect in ulcerative colitis (UC) but the mechanism underlying this effect, is not clear. However, this effect may imply that nicotine has some, as yet to be discovered, effect on the immune system. The aim of the work described in this thesis was to characterise the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) on human peripheral blood lymphocytes in term of receptor subtype. To achieve this, a combination of radioligand binding assays, pharmacological and molecular biological techniques were used. The data obtained from the binding studies suggested that the presence of one binding site for (-)- nicotine on human peripheral blood lymphocytes with a Kd 15 ± 5.759 nM (1.5 ± 5.759 x 10-8 M) and Bmax 2253 ± 409 sites/cell. The competition studies showed that ligands competing with [3H]-(-)-nicotine were (-)-nicotine, epibatidine and α-bungarotoxin, while others ligands for nAChRs displaced radiolabelled nicotine in insignificant quantities. Thus, radioligand-binding experiments suggest that the binding site for nicotine on human peripheral blood lymphocytes is a nAChR containing α7 and possibly α4 or/and 2 containing nAChR subunits. No evidence was obtained to suggest the presence of a non-cholinergic nicotine receptor. Furthermore, considerable subject to subject variation in the specific binding of radiolabelled nicotine was observed. Because of this only tentative conclusions could be drawn from radioligand binding data. Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was then used to demonstrate mRNA for the subunits of nAChRs suggested by radioligand binding studies. Data obtained show that the human peripheral blood lymphocytes tested, expressed mRNAs for α4, α5, α7, β2 neuronal nAChRs subunits and β1 muscle nAChR subunit. Expression of the α5 mRNA subunit of nAChR was observed in the lymphocytes in each sample of lymphocytes tested. In contrast, the expression pattern of mRNAs for α4, α7, β1, and β2 mRNAs subunits of nAChRs, varied between individuals. Finally, Western blot analysis was used to confirm that mRNA expression resulted in the expression of protein for nAChR subunits in human peripheral lymphocytes using monoclonal antibodies against α4, α5, α7, and β2 nAChR subunits, which had been detected by RT-PCR. The results obtained from the Western blot analysis show that protein for α4, α5, and α7 nAChR subunits was expressed in most, but not all of the human peripheral blood lymphocyte samples tested and some of the bands obtained were faint. In contrast, protein for the β2 nAChR subunit was observed in a few samples tested and the bands were faint. From the results obtained in this study, it is possible to conclude that human peripheral blood lymphocytes may contain nAChRs with subunit compositions of α4β2, α4β2α5, and/or α7. However, further studies are necessary to show whether or not the single binding site for nicotine demonstrated by radioligand binding experiments is due to one or all of these nAChRs. Thus, the findings of the present study suggest the presence of nAChR on human peripheral blood lymphocytes. Nicotine and its effect may occur through these non- neuronal nAChRs mechanisms. Such a mechanism of action could account for the beneficial of nicotine in ulcerative colitis. Furthermore, a compound that acts on these receptors, but not on nAChRs found on other cells may have therapeutic utility in the treatment of inflammation.
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