Although acetylcholine (ACh) has been identified as the primary neurotransmitter of the efferent vestibular system in most animals studied, no direct evidence exists that ACh is the efferent neurotransmitter of the human vestibular system. Choline acetyltransferase immunohistochemistry (ChATi), acetylcholinesterase (AChE) histochemistry, and a-bungarotoxin binding were used in human vestibular end-organs to address this question. ChATi and AChE activity was found in numerous bouton-type terminals contacting the basal area of type II vestibular hair cells and the afferent chalices surrounding type I hair cells; a-bungarotoxin binding suggested the presence of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on type II vestibular hair cells and on the afferent chalices surrounding type I hair cells. This study provides evidence that the human efferent vestibular axons and terminals are cholinergic and that the receptors receiving this innervation may be nicotinic.
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