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Biophys J. 1997 Sep;73(3):1276-80.

The choline-leakage hypothesis for the loss of acetylcholine in Alzheimer's disease.

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Biophysics Section, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


We present a hypothesis for the loss of acetylcholine in Alzheimer's disease that is based on two recent experimental results: that beta-amyloid causes leakage of choline across cell membranes and that decreased production of acetylcholine increases the production of beta-amyloid. According to the hypothesis, an increase in beta-amyloid concentration caused by proteolysis of the amyloid precursor protein results in an increase in the leakage of choline out of cells. This leads to a reduction in intracellular choline concentration and hence a reduction in acetylcholine production. The reduction in acetylcholine production, in turn, causes an increase in the concentration of beta-amyloid. The resultant positive feedback between decreased acetylcholine and increased beta-amyloid accelerates the loss of acetylcholine. We compare the predictions of the choline-leakage hypothesis with a number of experimental observations. We also approximate it with a pair of ordinary differential equations. The solutions of these equations indicate that the loss of acetylcholine is very sensitive to the initial rate of beta-amyloid production.

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