Exercise and neuromodulators: choline and acetylcholine in marathon runners

Int J Sports Med. 1992 Oct;13 Suppl 1:S141-2. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1024619.


Certain neurotransmitters (i.e., acetylcholine, catecholamines, and serotonin) are formed from dietary constituents (i.e., choline, tyrosine and tryptophan). Changing the consumption of these precursors alters release of their respective neurotransmitter products. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released from the neuromuscular junction and from brain. It is formed from choline, a common constituent in fish, liver, and eggs. Choline is also incorporated into cell membranes; membranes may likewise serve as an alternative choline source for acetylcholine synthesis. In trained athletes, running a 26 km marathon reduced plasma choline by approximately 40%, from 14.1 to 8.4 uM. Changes of similar magnitude have been shown to reduce acetylcholine release from the neuromuscular junction in vivo. Thus, the reductions in plasma choline associated with strenuous exercise may reduce acetylcholine release, and could thereby affect endurance or performance.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / biosynthesis
  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Boston
  • Choline / blood*
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*


  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine