Neurotrophins differentially enhance acetylcholine release, acetylcholine content and choline acetyltransferase activity in basal forebrain neurons

J Neurochem. 2001 Apr;77(1):253-62. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2001.t01-1-00234.x.


Several lines of evidence indicate that nerve growth factor is important for the development and maintenance of the basal forebrain cholinergic phenotype. In the present study, using rat primary embryonic basal forebrain cultures, we demonstrate the differential regulation of functional cholinergic markers by nerve growth factor treatment (24--96 h). Following a 96-h treatment, nerve growth factor (1--100 ng/mL) increased choline acetyltransferase activity (168--339% of control), acetylcholine content (141--185%), as well as constitutive (148--283%) and K(+)-stimulated (162--399%) acetylcholine release, but increased release was not accompanied by increased high-affinity choline uptake. Enhancement of ACh release was attenuated by vesamicol (1 microM), suggesting a vesicular source, and was abolished under choline-free conditions, emphasizing the importance of extracellular choline as the primary source for acetylcholine synthesized for release. A greater proportion of acetylcholine released from nerve growth factor-treated cultures than from nerve growth factor-naïve cultures was blocked by voltage-gated Ca(2+) channel antagonists, suggesting that nerve growth factor modified this parameter of neurotransmitter release. Cotreatment of NGF (20 ng/mL) with K252a (200 nM) abolished increases in ChAT activity and prevented enhancement of K(+)-stimulated ACh release beyond the level associated with K252a, suggesting the involvement of TrkA receptor signaling. Also, neurotrophin-3, neurotrophin-4 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (all at 5--200 ng/mL) increased acetylcholine release, although they were not as potent as nerve growth factor and higher concentrations were required. High brain-derived neurotrophic factor concentrations (100 and 200 ng/mL) did, however, increase release to a level similar to nerve growth factor. In summary, long-term exposure (days) of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons to nerve growth factor, and in a less-potent fashion the other neurotrophins, enhanced the release of acetylcholine, which was dependent upon a vesicular pool and the availability of extracellular choline.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / analysis
  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / drug effects
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Carrier Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Choline / metabolism
  • Choline / pharmacokinetics
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / pharmacology
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Potassium / pharmacology
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects
  • Prosencephalon / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins*


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents
  • Piperidines
  • Slc18a3 protein, rat
  • Vesicular Acetylcholine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • vesamicol
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase
  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine
  • Potassium