Muscarinic Stimulation Promotes Cultured Purkinje Cell Survival: A Role for Acetylcholine in Cerebellar Development?

Howard T.J. Mount, Cheryl F. Dreyfus, Ira B. Black

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Abstract: The survival and development of cerebellar neurons are under the control of interacting epigenetic signals. In the present study, we have examined interactive effects of nerve growth factor (NGF) and acetylcholine on in vitro cerebellar Purkinje cell survival. In initial experiments, dissociated rat cerebellar cultures were grown for 6–7 days in the presence of NGF and the stable cholinergic agonist carbachol. Simultaneous exposure to carbachol and NGF selectively increased Purkinje cell number, whereas neither agent was effective when tested alone. The increase in survival was blocked by the muscarinic antagonists atropine (0.1 µM) and pirenzepine (10 nM), but not by methoctramine (25 nM). Nicotine had no effect on survival when tested alone or in combination with NGF. The cerebellar cultures exhibited cholinergic neuronal traits: high‐affinity choline uptake, and choline acetyltransferase and acetylcholinesterase activities. To determine whether transmitter produced in vitro triggers Purkinje responsiveness to NGF, cells were exposed to physostigmine, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Physostigmine alone induced an atropine‐sensitive increase in cell survival that was enhanced in the presence of NGF. These data suggest that the early expression of cholinergic traits plays a role in Purkinje development. Activation of muscarinic receptors triggers enhanced Purkinje survival in the presence of NGF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2065-2073
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Acetylcholine
  • Muscarinic receptor
  • Nerve growth factor
  • Neurotrophin
  • Physostigmine
  • Purkinje cell


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