Effects of huperzine A on acetylcholinesterase isoforms in vitro: comparison with tacrine, donepezil, rivastigmine and physostigmine

Eur J Pharmacol. 2002 Nov 29;455(2-3):101-7. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(02)02589-x.


Five inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, huperzine A, donepezil, tacrine, rivastigmine and physostigmine, were compared with regard to their effects on different molecular forms of acetylcholinesterase in cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and striatum from the rat brain. In general, huperzine A preferentially inhibited tetrameric acetylcholinesterase (G4 form), while tacrine and rivastigmine preferentially inhibited monomeric acetylcholinesterase (G1 form). Donepezil showed pronounced selectivity for G1 acetylcholinesterase in striatum and hippocampus, but not in cortex. Physostigmine showed no form-selectivity in any brain region. In cortex, the most potent inhibitors of G4 acetylcholinesterase were huperzine A (K(i) 7 x 10(-9) M) and donepezil (K(i) 4 x 10(-9) M). The potent inhibitors of cortical G1 acetylcholinesterase were donepezil (K(i) 3.5 x 10(-9) M) and tacrine (K(i) 2.3 x 10(-8) M). In hippocampus, huperzine A and physostigmine were the most potent inhibitors of G4 acetylcholinesterase, while donepezil and tacrine were most potent against G1 acetylcholinesterase. In striatum, huperzine A and donepezil were the most potent against G4 acetylcholinesterase, while again donepezil was the most potent against G1. Although the inhibition constants (K(i)) of these acetylcholinesterase inhibitors differed significantly from region to region, the nature of the inhibition did not vary. These results suggest that the use of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in treatment of Alzheimer's disease must consider both form-specific and region-specific characteristics of acetylcholinesterase inhibition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / drug effects*
  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Alkaloids
  • Animals
  • Carbamates / pharmacology
  • Cerebral Cortex / enzymology
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Corpus Striatum / enzymology
  • Donepezil
  • Hippocampus / enzymology
  • Indans / pharmacology
  • Isoenzymes / drug effects
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Phenylcarbamates*
  • Physostigmine / pharmacology
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rivastigmine
  • Sesquiterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Tacrine / pharmacology


  • Alkaloids
  • Carbamates
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Indans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Phenylcarbamates
  • Piperidines
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • huperzine A
  • Tacrine
  • Donepezil
  • Physostigmine
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Rivastigmine