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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1985 Sep; 82(18): 6344–6348.
PMCID: PMC391050

Two types of muscarinic response to acetylcholine in mammalian cortical neurons.


Applications of acetylcholine (AcCho) to pyramidal cells of guinea pig cingulate cortical slices maintained in vitro result in a short latency inhibition, followed by a prolonged increase in excitability. Cholinergic inhibition is mediated through the rapid excitation of interneurons that utilize the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This rapid excitation of interneurons is associated with a membrane depolarization and a decrease in neuronal input resistance. In contrast, AcCho-induced excitation of pyramidal cells is due to a direct action that produces a voltage-dependent increase in input resistance. In the experiments reported here, we investigated the possibility that these two responses are mediated by different subclasses of cholinergic receptors. The inhibitory and slow excitatory responses of pyramidal neurons were blocked by muscarinic but not by nicotinic antagonists. Pirenzepine was more effective in blocking the AcCho-induced slow depolarization than in blocking the hyperpolarization of pyramidal neurons. The two responses also varied in their sensitivity to various cholinergic agonists, making it possible to selectively activate either. These data suggest that AcCho may produce two physiologically and pharmacologically distinct muscarinic responses on neocortical neurons: slowly developing voltage-dependent depolarizations associated with an increase in input resistance in pyramidal cells and short-latency depolarizations associated with a decrease in input resistance in presumed GABAergic interneurons.

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