Molecular origin(s) of the diverse behavioral responses to anticholinesterases were explored in behaviorally impaired transgenic (Tg) FVB/N mice expressing synaptic human acetylcholinesterase (hAChE-S). Untreated hAChE-S Tg, unlike naïve FVB/N mice, presented variably intense neuronal overexpression of the alternatively spliced, stress-induced mouse "readthrough" mAChE-R mRNA. Both strains displayed similar diurnal patterns of locomotor activity that were impaired 3 days after a day-to-night switch. However, hAChE-S Tg, but not FVB/N mice responded to the circadian switch with irregular, diverse bursts of increased locomotor activity. In social recognition tests, controls displayed short-term recognition, reflected by decreased exploration of a familiar, compared to a novel juvenile conspecific as well as inverse correlation between social recognition and cortical and hippocampal AChE specific activities. In contrast, transgenics presented poor recognition, retrievable by tetrahydroaminoacridine (tacrine, 1.5 mg kg(-1)). Tacrine's effect was short-lived (24 h) suppression of the abnormal social recognition pattern in transgenics. Efficacy of antisense treatment was directly correlated with AChE-R levels and the severity of the impaired phenotype, being most apparent in transgenics presenting highly abnormal pre-treatment behavior. These findings demonstrate that neuronal AChE-R overproduction is involved in various behavioral impairments and anticholinesterase responses, and point to the antisense strategy as a potential approach for re-establishing cholinergic balance.