Beta-Amyloid peptide (Abeta) is found in diffuse and focal deposits throughout the brain from Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. Another feature of AD is the widespread degeneration and dysfunction of the basal-forebrain cholinergic system. Until now, it has been unclear how these features of AD might be related. Recent reports, however, suggest that Abeta can potently inhibit various cholinergic neurotransmitter functions independently of apparent neurotoxicity. This capacity of Abeta might contribute to the vulnerability of selected cholinergic neuronal populations in AD. Moreover, the high potency (picomolar to nanomolar concentrations) of these effects and the secretion of Abeta by brain cells indicate that Abeta-induced cholinergic hypoactivity might have physiological in addition to pathological significance.