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Biochem Pharmacol. 1988 Jul 15;37(14):2747-55.

Choline as an agonist: determination of its agonistic potency on cholinergic receptors.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Uludag Medical Faculty, Bursa, Turkey.


These experiments examined the potency of choline as a cholinergic agonist at both muscarinic and nicotinic receptors in rat brain and peripheral tissues. Choline stimulated the contraction of isolated smooth muscle preparations of the stomach fundus, urinary bladder and trachea and reduced the frequency of spontaneous contractions of the right atrium at high micromolar and low millimolar concentrations. The potency of choline to elicit a biological response varied markedly among these tissues; EC50 values ranged between 0.41 mM in the fundus to 14.45 mM in the atrium. Choline also displaced [3H]quinuclidinyl benzilate binding in a concentration-dependent manner although, again, its potency varied among different brain regions (Ki = 1.2 to 3.5 mM) and peripheral tissues (Ki = 0.28 to 3.00 mM). Choline exhibited a comparable affinity for nicotinic receptors. It stimulated catecholamine release from the vascularly perfused adrenal gland (EC50 = 1.3 mM) and displaced L-[3H]nicotine binding to membrane preparations of brain and peripheral tissues (Ki = 0.38 to 1.17 mM). However, the concentration of choline required to bind to cholinergic receptors in most tissues was considerably higher than serum levels either in controls (8-13 microM) or following the administration of choline chloride (200 microM). These results clearly demonstrate that choline is a weak cholinergic agonist. Its potency is too low to account for the central nervous system effects produced by choline administration, although the direct activation of cholinergic receptors in several peripheral tissues may explain some of its side effects.

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