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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jul 23, 1996; 93(15): 8068–8071.
PMCID: PMC38876

Amyloid beta-protein reduces acetylcholine synthesis in a cell line derived from cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain.

Abstract

The characteristic features of a brain with Alzheimer disease (AD) include the presence of neuritic plaques composed of amyloid beta-protein (Abeta) and reductions in the levels of cholinergic markers. Neurotoxic responses to Abeta have been reported in vivo and in vitro, suggesting that the cholinergic deficit in AD brain may be secondary to the degeneration of cholinergic neurons caused by Abeta. However, it remains to be determined if Abeta contributes to the cholinergic deficit in AD brain by nontoxic effects. We examined the effects of synthetic Abeta peptides on the cholinergic properties of a mouse cell line, SN56, derived from basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. Abeta 1-42 and Abeta 1-28 reduced the acetylcholine (AcCho) content of the cells in a concentration-dependent fashion, whereas Abeta 1-16 was inactive. Maximal reductions of 43% and 33% were observed after a 48-h treatment with 100 nM of Abeta 1-42 and 50 pM of Abeta 1-28, respectively. Neither Abeta 1-28 nor Abeta 1-42 at a concentration of 100 nM and a treatment period of 2 weeks was toxic to the cells. Treatment of the cells with Abeta 25-28 (48 h; 100 nM) significantly decreased AcCho levels, suggesting that the sequence GSNK (aa 25-28) is responsible for the AcCho-reducing effect of Abeta. The reductions in AcCho levels caused by Abeta 1-42 and Abeta 1-28 were accompanied by proportional decreases in choline acetyltransferase activity. In contrast, acetylcholinesterase activity was unaltered, indicating that Abeta specifically reduces the synthesis of AcCho in SN56 cells. The reductions in AcCho content caused by Abeta 1-42 could be prevented by a cotreatment with all-trans-retinoic acid (10 nM), a compound previously shown to increase choline acetyltransferase mRNA expression in SN56 cells. These results demonstrate a nontoxic, suppressive effect of Abeta on AcCho synthesis, an action that may contribute to the cholinergic deficit in AD brain.

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