Radiation-induced gastrointestinal syndrome occurs when the body is exposed to a high dose of radiation. Currently, safe and effective radioprotectants are not available. Apoptosis was reported to play a primary role in radiation-induced injury. Recent evidence suggests that stimulation of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR) prevents cell death by inhibition of apoptosis. In this study, we demonstrated that a single dose of PNU282987 (100 μg/kg, i.p.), a selective α7nAChR agonist, protected mice from intestinal injury and significantly improved survival when administered prior to lethal 8 Gy total body irradiation. In vitro, PNU282987 protected against 8 Gy radiation-induced cell death in human umbilical venous endothelial cells by inhibiting apoptosis. We conclude that activation of α7nAChR may provide a new therapeutic pathway for the treatment of radiation-induced damage and mortality.

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