Functional characterization of muscarinic cholinergic receptors in myelinating glial cells has been well described both in central and peripheral nervous system. Rat Schwann cells (SCs) express different muscarinic receptor subtypes with the prevalence of the M2 subtype. The selective stimulation of this receptor subtype inhibits SC proliferation, improving their differentiation towards myelinating phenotype. In this work, we describe for the first time that human SCs are cholinoceptive as they express several muscarinic receptor subtypes and, as for rat SCs, M2 receptor is one of the most abundant. Human SCs, isolated from adult nerves, were cultured in vitro and stimulated with M2 muscarinic agonist arecaidine propargyl ester (APE). Similarly to that observed in rat, M2 receptor activation causes a decreased cell proliferation and promotes SC differentiation as suggested by increased Egr2 expression with an improved spindle-like shape cell morphology. Conversely, the non-selective stimulation of muscarinic receptors appears to promote cell proliferation with a reduction of SC average cell diameter. The data obtained demonstrate that human SCs are cholinoceptive and that human cultured SCs may represent an interesting tool to understand their physiology and increase the knowledge on how the cholinergic stimulation may contribute to address human SC development in normal and pathological conditions.
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