Beta-amyloid-induced cholinergic denervation correlates with enhanced nitric oxide synthase activity in rat cerebral cortex: reversal by NMDA receptor blockade

Brain Res Bull. 1998;45(4):405-11. doi: 10.1016/s0361-9230(97)00405-x.


Ample experimental evidence indicates that acute beta-amyloid infusion into the nucleus basalis of rats elicits abrupt degeneration of the magnocellular cholinergic neurons projecting to the cerebral cortex. In fact, involvement of a permanent Ca2+ overload, partially via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, was proposed as a pivotal mechanism in beta-amyloid-induced neurodegeneration. A definite measure of NMDA receptor-mediated processes and subsequent Ca2+ entry is the induction of Ca2+/calmodulin-activated neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) in nerve cells. In the present account we therefore assessed activation of nNOS in correlation with cholinergic decline after beta-amyloid(1-42) or beta-amyloid(25-35) infusion into the rat nucleus basalis. The results demonstrate the beta-amyloid conformation-dependent enhancement of cortical nitric oxide synthase (NOS) activity. Furthermore, chronic application of the polyamine site NMDA receptor blocker ifenprodil effectively attenuated beta-amyloid neurotoxicity. We propose that nNOS activation reflects the degree of beta-amyloid-induced excitotoxic injury in a proportional manner. Moreover, Ca2+-mediated processes via NMDA receptors, or direct binding of beta-amyloid to this receptor may be a critical step in the neurotoxic mechanisms in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / enzymology*
  • Cholinesterases / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Space / drug effects
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Male
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism*
  • Parasympathectomy*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, sigma / drug effects
  • Receptors, sigma / metabolism


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Piperidines
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, sigma
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • NADPH Dehydrogenase
  • Cholinesterases
  • ifenprodil