Studies on the mechanism of action of acetylcholine antagonists on rat parasympathetic ganglion cells

J Physiol. 1979 Oct;295:139-70. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1979.sp012958.


The mode of action of ACh antagonists on the parasympathetic neurones of the submandibular ganglion of the rat was studied by means of a two-micro-electrode voltage-clamp technique. The currents produced by various agonists (carbachol, ACh, suberylcholine) were studied in steady state and after voltage steps, before and after perfusion of various antagonists. 2. For three antagonists (tubocurarine, hexamethonium, decamethonium) the blocking action increases with hyperpolarization. For three other antagonists (surugatoxin, trimetaphan, mecamylamine) the effects observed at low concentrations appear to be independent of membrane potential, although in some cases voltage dependence of the block was observed for mecamylamine. 3. The blocks the 'open' channel-reception complex. The block produced by tubocurarine, hexamethonium and decamethonium increases with the agonist concentration, an observation which supports a 'sequential' scheme in which the antagonist blocks the 'open' channel-receptor complex. The block produced by trimetaphan and mecamylamine decreases slightly with increased agonist concentration, which in turn suggests that these two compounds are competitive antagonists, preventing binding of the agonists to the closed channel-receptor complex. 4. In the cases where the block is voltage dependent, voltage jumps trigger slow relaxations which are not present in control conditions. In the case of tubocurarine and hexamethonium, the relaxation following a hyperpolarizing voltage jump corresponds to a decrease in conductance. In the case of decamethonium, the slow relaxation is in the opposite direction. 5. The slow relaxations observed with tubocurarine and hexamethonium are speeded by an increase of the antagonist concentration; the slow relaxations observed with decamethonium are slowed by an increase of the decamethonium concentration. 6. The steady-state observations and the relaxations can be interpreted in terms of a scheme in which tubocurarine, hexamethonium and decamethonium act mainly by blocking the channels opened by the cholinergic agonists. 7. The two types of slow relaxation are those predicted if tubocurarine and hexamethonium dissociate slowly from the channel, and decamethonium rapidly. 8. An additional effect of tubocurarine is described, which consists of a potentiation of the rising phase of the response to an ionophoretic pulse. Possible mechanisms of this effect are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bungarotoxins / pharmacology
  • Carbachol / pharmacology
  • Choline / analogs & derivatives
  • Choline / pharmacology
  • Decamethonium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Dicarboxylic Acids / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Parasympathetic / drug effects*
  • Ganglia, Parasympathetic / physiology
  • Ganglionic Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Hexamethonium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Kinetics
  • Marine Toxins / pharmacology
  • Mecamylamine / pharmacology
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Toxins, Biological / pharmacology
  • Trimethaphan / pharmacology
  • Tubocurarine / pharmacology


  • Bungarotoxins
  • Decamethonium Compounds
  • Dicarboxylic Acids
  • Ganglionic Blockers
  • Hexamethonium Compounds
  • Ion Channels
  • Marine Toxins
  • Toxins, Biological
  • Mecamylamine
  • Trimethaphan
  • Carbachol
  • Choline
  • Acetylcholine
  • Tubocurarine