Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are well known for their regenerative potential. Even though the ability of MSCs to proliferate and differentiate has been studied extensively, there remains much to learn about the signaling mechanisms and pathways that control proliferation and influence the differentiation phenotype. In recent years, there has been growing evidence for the utility of non-neuronal cholinergic signaling systems and that acetylcholine (ACh) plays an important ubiquitous role in cell-to-cell communication. Indeed, cholinergic signaling is hypothesized to occur in stem cells and ACh synthesis, as well as in ACh receptor (AChR) expression, has been identified in several stem cell populations, including MSCs. Furthermore, AChRs have been found to influence MSC regenerative potential. In humans, there are two major classes of AChRs, muscarinic AChRs and nicotinic AChRs, with each class possessing several subtypes or subunits. In this review, the expression and function of AChRs in different types of MSC are summarized with the aim of highlighting how AChRs play a pivotal role in regulating MSC regenerative function.

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Published In

cover image Stem Cells and Development
Stem Cells and Development
Volume 32Issue Number 3-4February 2023
Pages: 47 - 59
PubMed: 36355611


Published online: 6 February 2023
Published in print: February 2023
Published ahead of print: 24 January 2023
Published ahead of production: 10 November 2022
Accepted: 8 November 2022
Received: 25 August 2022


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    School of Medicine Dentistry and Nursing and University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
    School of Medicine Dentistry and Nursing and University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
    School of Medicine Dentistry and Nursing and University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
    Matthew J. Dalby
    School of Molecular Biosciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
    School of Medicine Dentistry and Nursing and University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.
    Faculty of Medical Sciences, School of Dental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.


    Considered joint senior authors.
    Address correspondence to: Dr. Saeed Alqahtani, School of Medicine Dentistry and Nursing, University of Glasgow, 378 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3JZ, United Kingdom [email protected]

    Author Disclosure Statement

    The authors have no relevant financial or nonfinancial interests to disclose.

    Funding Information

    M.C.B. was funded by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health care and the BBSRC Industrial GlaxoSmithKline CASE PhD studentship (BB/V509541/1).

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