The sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake into synaptosomes from rat brain has been studied after in vivo treatments which would alter the activity of cholinergic neurons. We utilized a number of treatments to reduce the activity of cholinergc neurons in the brain. Administration of pentobarbital (65 mg/kg), chloral hydrate (40 mg/kg) and γbutyrelactone (750 mg/kg) caused a 50-80% reduction in sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake in several brain regions (30 min). This depression was not found 24 h after injection. Interruption of the cholinergic septal-hippocampal or habenuleinterpeduncular tracts by lesions (10 min-1 h) also caused a similar, large reduction in sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake in the hippocampus and the interpeduncular nucleus respectively.

We reversed the inactivity after pentobarbital administration by direct electrical stimulation of the cholinergic septal-hippocampal tract. Stimulation (40 Hz) for 10-15 min completely reversed the depression in sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake. Stimulation at lower frequencies or for shorter times caused a partial reversal.

Administration of pentylenetetrazol (75 mg/kg), a convulsant, was utilized to increase the activity of central cholinergic neurons. After drug administration, we found a large (60%) increase in sodium-de-pendent high affinity choline uptake. This increase was not found in the hippocampus when cholinergic afferents were interrupted by septal lesion prior to drug administration.

We also examined the uptake after administration of cholinergic drugs. Oxotremorine (0.75 mg/kg), a muscarinic agonist which reduces acetylcholine release and turnover, caused a reduction in uptake. On the other hand, administration of scopolamine (5 mg/kg), a cholinergic antagonist which increases acetylcholine turnover, caused an increase in sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake. Addition of any drug utilized, drectly to uptake samples, did not alter uptake.

We examined the conversion of [3H]choline to [3H]acetylcholine in hippocampal synaptosomes after septal lesion, pentylenetetrazol administration and in untreated controls. In all cases, 60-70% of the total sodium-dependent tritium content was present as [3H]acetylcholine. Evidence was presented that homoexchange is not or is less involved in choline uptake than in GABA uptake.

A kinetic analysis of sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake was performed after all treatments. We found changes in Vmax, after all treatments, which were consistently in the same direction as the alterations in activity. The proposal is made that the sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake is coupled to cholinergic activity in such a way as to regulate the entry of choline for the maintenance of acetylcholine synthesis. The findings also lead us to propose that sodium-dependent high affinity choline uptake in vitro be utilized as a rapid, relative measure of the activity of cholinergic nerve terminals in vivo.