The Amyloid β-Protein of Alzheimer's Disease Increases Acetylcholinesterase Expression by Increasing Intracellular Calcium in Embryonal Carcinoma P19 Cells


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. D. H. Small at Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Department of Pathology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.


Abstract: One of the characteristic changes that occurs in Alzheimer's disease is the loss of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) from both cholinergic and noncholinergic neurons of the brain. However, AChE activity is increased around amyloid plaques. This increase in AChE may be of significance for therapeutic strategies using AChE inhibitors. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of amyloid β-protein (Aβ), the major component of amyloid plaques, on AChE expression. Aβ peptides spanning residues 1–40 or 25–35 increased AChE activity in P19 embryonal carcinoma cells. A peptide containing a scrambled Aβ25–35 sequence did not stimulate AChE expression. To examine the possibility that the increase in AChE expression was mediated by an influx of calcium through voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCCs), drugs acting on VDCCs were tested for their effects. Inhibitors of L-type VDCCs (diltiazem, nifedipine, and verapamil), but not N- or P- or Q-type VDCCs, resulted in a decrease in AChE expression. Agonists of L-type VDCCs (maitotoxin and S(−)-Bay K 8644) increased AChE expression. As L-type VDCCs are known to be modulated by cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase, the effect of the adenylate cyclase activator forskolin was also examined. Forskolin stimulated AChE expression, an action that was blocked by the L-type VDCC antagonist nifedipine. The Aβ25–35-induced increase in AChE expression was mediated by an L-type VDCC, as the effect was also blocked by nifedipine. The results suggest that the increase in AChE expression around amyloid plaques could be due to a disturbance in calcium homeostasis involving the opening of L-type VDCCs.