Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the hippocampus, neocortex and amygdala: a review of immunocytochemical localization in relation to learning and memory

Prog Neurobiol. 1999 Aug;58(5):409-71. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(98)00092-6.


Immunocytochemical mapping studies employing the extensively used monoclonal anti-muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) antibody M35 are reviewed. We focus on three neuronal muscarinic cholinoceptive substrates, which are target regions of the cholinergic basal forebrain system intimately involved in cognitive functions: the hippocampus; neocortex; and amygdala. The distribution and neurochemistry of mAChR-immunoreactive cells as well as behaviorally induced alterations in mAChR-immunoreactivity (ir) are described in detail. M35+ neurons are viewed as cells actively engaged in neuronal functions in which the cholinergic system is typically involved. Phosphorylation and subsequent internalization of muscarinic receptors determine the immunocytochemical outcome, and hence M35 as a tool to visualize muscarinic receptors is less suitable for detection of the entire pool of mAChRs in the central nervous system (CNS). Instead, M35 is sensitive to and capable of detecting alterations in the physiological condition of muscarinic receptors. Therefore, M35 is an excellent tool to localize alterations in cellular cholinoceptivity in the CNS. M35-ir is not only determined by acetylcholine (ACh), but by any substance that changes the phosphorylation/internalization state of the mAChR. An important consequence of this proposition is that other neurotransmitters than ACh (especially glutamate) can regulate M35-ir and the cholinoceptive state of a neuron, and hence the functional properties of a neuron. One of the primary objectives of this review is to provide a synthesis of our data and literature data on mAChR-ir. We propose a hypothesis for the role of muscarinic receptors in learning and memory in terms of modulation between learning and recall states of brain areas at the postsynaptic level as studied by way of immunocytochemistry employing the monoclonal antibody M35.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Amygdala / blood supply
  • Amygdala / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Arteries / metabolism
  • Cerebral Veins / metabolism
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase / analysis
  • Hippocampus / blood supply
  • Hippocampus / chemistry*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interneurons / chemistry
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neocortex / blood supply
  • Neocortex / chemistry*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Protein Kinase C / analysis
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / analysis*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / history
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / ultrastructure


  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Protein Kinase C
  • Glutamate Decarboxylase