Role of Acetylcholinesterase

One aspect of the ACh hypothesis for chemical synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction involves the action of AChE. If AChE acts to break down ACh into inactive forms, one would predict that preventing this hydrolysis would allow ACh to act in the synaptic cleft for a longer time and produce a larger and longer lasting EPP. A group of substances have been identified, one of which is known as neostigmine, that block the action of AChE. Figure 8 illustrates the effects of neostigmine on the EPP. The lower trace shows a normal EPP. Once again the EPP is reduced (e.g., by a low dose of curare) such that it fails to trigger an action potential. The upper trace shows the effect of adding neostigmine to the extracellular medium. In the presence of neostigmine, the amplitude and duration of the EPP are increased.

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