Impaired neuromuscular transmission during partial inhibition of acetylcholinesterase: the role of stimulus-induced antidromic backfiring in the generation of the decrement-increment phenomenon

Muscle Nerve. 1992 Oct;15(10):1072-80. doi: 10.1002/mus.880151003.


Neuromuscular transmission was studied in the rat phrenic nerve-hemidiaphragm preparation with acetylcholinesterase (AChE) partially inactivated. Enzyme inhibition resulted in (1) increased single-twitch tension of the diaphragm; (2) compound muscle action potential (CMAP) containing repetitive discharges; (3) stimulus-induced antidromic backfiring (SIAB) seen in the phrenic nerve; and (4) repetitive nerve stimulation (RNS) eliciting a decrement-increment (D-I) phenomenon (i.e., amplitude reduction maximal with the second CMAP). Using a high-calcium and low-magnesium solution, SIAB and the decrement of the second CMAP during RNS were intensified, whereas closely spaced trains and (+)-tubocurarine (TC) abolished SIAB and simultaneously prevented the decrement of the second CMAP. Importantly, low concentrations of (+)-TC prevented SIAB in the phrenic nerve, while the repetitive discharges of the CMAP and the increase in twitch tension remained unaffected. This observation suggests that preterminal nicotinic receptors stimulated by released acetylcholine induce SIAB, whereas postsynaptic events are less important in the generation of SIAB. SIAB, a presynaptic event, appears to be responsible for the transient impairment of the neuromuscular transmission, i.e., the D-I phenomenon.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / physiology*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Diaphragm / innervation
  • Diaphragm / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Male
  • Neostigmine / pharmacology*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*
  • Phrenic Nerve / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Neostigmine
  • Acetylcholinesterase