An acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, eserine, induces long-term depression at CA3-CA1 synapses in the hippocampus of adult rats

Robert Alan Mans, Brian A. Warmus, Caroline C. Smith, Lori L. McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Studies in humans and rodents support a role for muscarinic ACh receptor (mAChR) and nicotinic AChR in learning and memory, and both regulate hippocampal synaptic plasticity using complex and often times opposing mechanisms. Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors are commonly prescribed to enhance cholinergic signaling in Alzheimer’s disease in hopes of rescuing cognitive function, caused, in part, by degeneration of cholinergic innervation to the hippocampus and cortex. Unfortunately, therapeutic efficacy is moderate and inconsistent, perhaps due to unanticipated mechanisms. M1mAChRs bidirectionally control synaptic strength at CA3-CA1 synapses; weak pharmacological activation using carbachol (CCh) facilitates potentiation, whereas strong agonism induces muscarinic long-term depression (mLTD) via an ERK-dependent mechanism. Here, we tested the prediction that accumulation of extracellular ACh via inhibition of AChE is sufficient to induce LTD at CA3-CA1 synapses in hippocampal slices from adult rats. Although AChE inhibition with eserine induces LTD, it unexpectedly does not share properties with mLTD induced by CCh, as reported previously. Eserine-LTD was prevented by the M3mAChR-preferring antagonist 1,1-dimethyl-4-diphenylacetoxypiperidinium iodide (4-DAMP), and pharmacological inhibition of MEK was completely ineffective. Additionally, pharmacological inhibition of p38MAPK prevents mLTD but has no effect on eserine-LTD. Finally, long-term expression of eserine- LTD is partially dependent on a decrease in presynaptic release probability, likely caused by tonic activation of mAChRs by the sustained increase in extracellular ACh. Thus these findings extend current literature by showing that pharmacological AChE inhibition causes a prolonged decrease in presynaptic glutamate release at CA3-CA1 synapses, in addition to inducing a likely postsynaptic form of LTD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2388-2397
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2014


  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Hippocampus
  • Long-term depression
  • Muscarinic AChR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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