Electrophysiological estimation of the actions of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors on acetylcholine receptor and cholinesterase in physically isolated Aplysia neurones

Y. Oyama, N. Hori, M. L. Evans, Charles Allen, D. O. Carpenter

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1. The actions of representative cholinesterase inhibitors on the acetylcholine responses of physically isolated single neurones from the pedal ganglion of Aplysia californica were studied, using electrophysiological techniques and rapid agonist application to analyse both the inhibitory actions on the acetylcholine receptor-channel complex and the degree of inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity on the same neurone. The inhibitors used were physostigmine, edrophonium and diisopropylfluorophosphate (DFP). 2. When selected neurones were suddenly exposed to 50 μM acetylcholine by a 'concentration clamp' technique a large Na-dependent inward current was initiated, and decayed in the continued presence of acetylcholine without external perfusion. However, if perfusion of the acetylcholine solution was reinitiated the current increased somewhat, indicating that the decay of current was due to some combination of receptor desensitization and local depletion of acetylcholine at the membrane by acetylcholinesterase. 3. With simultaneous application of acetylcholine (50 μM) and physostigmine (0.1 to 100 μM) there was a dose-dependent reduction of peak amplitude of the acetylcholine response. However, physostigmine at low concentrations (0.1 to 10 μM) caused a time-dependent increase in the current amplitude alone with a time- and dose-dependent inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity. At the highest concentration of physostigmine (100 μM) acetylcholinesterase activity was abolished but the current peak was very depressed. After removal of physostigmine from the bathing solution, the current amplitude decreased toward the control at the two lower concentrations as the inhibitory actions on acetylcholinesterase activity were almost reversible, while at the two higher concentrations (10 and 100 μM) the current increased and the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase remained. 4. When acetylcholine (50 μM) and edrophonium (0.1 to 10 μM) were applied simultaneously, edrophonium caused a dose-dependent increase in the peak amplitude that was correlated with a dose-dependent inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity. Prolonged exposure to edrophonium did not change the peak amplitude and there was no time-dependent change in the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity. At the highest concentration of edrophonium used (100 μM), simultaneous application with acetylcholine augmented the peak amplitude relative to control, but to a lesser extent than 10 μM. Prolonged exposure to the highest concentration of edrophonium caused a time-dependent reduction in the peak amplitude. The effects of edrophonium were quickly reversible after the removal of the drug from the bathing solution. 5. DFP (1 and 10 mM), similar to 100 μM physostigmine, caused a dramatic reduction of the peak current on simultaneous application with acetylcholine. During exposure to DFP the current amplitude and acetylcholinesterase activity were very depressed. After removing DFP from the bathing solution the current amplitude increased to more than the control level after 1 mM DFP, while it did not recover to the control level after 10 mM DFP. The inhibition of acetylcholinesterase activity remained at both concentrations. 6. These results indicate that all three cholinesterase inhibitors have dose-dependent actions both at the acetylcholine receptor-channel complex and at acetylcholinesterase. The methods we have developed may be useful in the evaluation of various cholinesterase inhibitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-582
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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