Quantification of Acetylcholine Release from Splenocytes for Exploration of the Cholinergic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway

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Purpose: Inflammation is characterized by complex interactions between pro- and anti- inflammatory cytokines. Recent research has probed the role of the nervous system in inflammation, part of which includes the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway that regulates immunologically-mediated inflammation. In this pathway, norepinephrine release from the splenic nerves binds to beta-2-adrenergic receptors on T cells, causing release of acetylcholine (ACh). ACh subsequently suppresses macrophage production and release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The purpose of this project is to quantify ACh release from isolated murine splenocytes when challenged with different mediators that stimulate T cells in this pathway.

Methods:Our method utilizes liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for quantification of ACh and choline (Ch) in cell culture media. The developed LC-MS/MS method utilizes an isocratic separation (14% 10mM ammonium formate, pH 3, and 86% acetonitrile) on an Atlantis HILIC column (2.1 x 100 mm, 3 micron). The MS operates in positive electrospray (+ESI) mode, monitoring ions specific for ACh, Ch, and their corresponding deuterium labeled internal standards. The calibration range for ACh was 0.01 - 5 micrograms/ml (0.068 - 34 mM) and 10 - 50 micrograms/ml (96 - 480 mM) for Ch. Cell culture media contained neostigmine (0.5 mM) to inhibit cholinesterase. Cell culture media samples are prepared by freeze drying, reconstituting in acetonitrile, and filtering (0.2micron). Potential loss of ACh through degradation during cell culture was evaluated by monitoring d4-labeled ACh with and without the presence of splenocytes for 4 and 24 hours. Splenocytes were challenged with saline (control) or 1 mM (-) isoproterenol for 4 and 24 hours in the next set of experiments, and ACh in the medium was quantified. We also evaluated separate and combined effects of isoproterenol and activation of T cells with CD3 and CD28 antibodies on ACh release.

Results:Correlation coefficients (R2) indicate linearity for ACh and Ch in culture media in the calibration range. During the six-min separation, ACh elutes at 3.8 min and Ch at 5.1 min. Deuterium-labeled ACh, when incubated in cell culture media for 4 and 24 hours, with and without splenocytes, showed a small but statistically significant loss of ACh after 24 h compared to 0 time media controls. However, the average loss of ACh was less than 10% and was not affected by the presence of splenocytes, suggesting that it was due to chemical hydrolysis. Incubation for 4 hr with and without splenocytes did not affect recovery of ACh. Treatment of splenocytes with isoproterenol for 4 hours did not cause significant release of ACh. However, significant release of ACh was detected after 24 hours exposure to isoproterenol or T cell activation. Media from untreated splenocytes had an ACh concentration of 0.14 +/- 0.07 mcg/mL. Isoproterenol treated had 0.28 +/- 0.14 mcg/mL, T-cell activated had 0.32 +/- 0.17 mg/mL, and isoproterenol + T-cell activation had 0.47 +/- 0.16 mcg/mL. Using a 1-way analysis of variance, statistically significant differences were detected between each of these groups.

Conclusion: The developed LC-MS/MS assay for quantification of ACh and Ch in cell culture media can be applied to the investigation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway in isolated splenocytes. Statistically significant differences in ACh release between control splenocytes and those treated with isoproterenol and T-cell activation can be detected. Quantitative investigation of this pathway helps provide an improved understanding of ACh dynamics as a mediator released from leukocytes. Further studies using this model and methodology will provide novel insights into cholinergic anti-inflammatory mechanisms and other immunomodulatory actions of non-neuronal ACh.


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