Inhibition of choline acetyltransferase as a mechanism for cholinergic dysfunction induced by amyloid-β peptide oligomers

Nilson Nunes-Tavares, Luís Eduardo Santos, Bernardo Stutz, Jordano Brito-Moreira, William L. Klein, Sérgio T. Ferreira, Fernando G. De Mello*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Dysregulated cholinergic signaling is an early hallmark of Alzheimer disease (AD), usually ascribed to degeneration of cholinergic neurons induced by the amyloid-β peptide (Aβ). It is now generally accepted that neuronal dysfunction and memory deficits in the early stages of AD are caused by the neuronal impact of soluble Aβ oligomers (AβOs). AβOs build up inADbrain and specifically attach to excitatory synapses, leading to synapse dysfunction. Here, we have investigated the possibility that AβOs could impact cholinergic signaling. The activity of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT, the enzyme that carries outAChproduction) was inhibited by∼50% in cultured cholinergic neurons exposed to low nanomolar concentrations of AβOs. 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide(MTT)reduction, lactatedehydrogenase release, and [3H]choline uptake assays showed no evidence of neuronal damage or loss of viability that could account for reduced ChAT activity under these conditions. Glutamate receptor antagonists fully blocked ChAT inhibition and oxidative stress induced by AβOs. Antioxidant polyunsaturated fatty acids had similar effects, indicating that oxidative damage may be involved in ChAT inhibition. Treatment with insulin, previously shown to down-regulate neuronal AβO binding sites, fully prevented AβO-induced inhibition of ChAT. Interestingly, we found that AβOs selectively bind to ∼50% of cultured cholinergic neurons, suggesting that ChAT is fully inhibited in AβO-targeted neurons. Reduction in ChAT activity instigated by AβOs may thus be a relevant event in earlystageADpathology, precedingthelossofcholinergicneurons commonly observed in AD brains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19377-19385
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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