Long-term effects of selective immunolesions of cholinergic neurons of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis on the ascending cholinergic pathways in the rat: A model for Alzheimer's disease

Csaba Szigeti, Norbert Bencsik, Aurel Janos Simonka, Adam Legradi, Peter Kasa, Karoly Gulya

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Alzheimer's disease is associated with a significant decrease in the cholinergic input to the neocortex. In a rat model of this depletion, we analyzed the subsequent long-term changes in cholinergic fiber density in two well-defined areas of the frontal and parietal cortices: Fr1, the primary motor cortex, and HL, the hindlimb area of the somatosensory (parietal) cortex, two cortical cholinergic fields that receive inputs from the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (nBM). A specific cholinergic lesion was induced by the intraparenchymal injection of 192 IgG-saporin into the nBM. Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunohistochemistry was applied to identify the loss of cholinergic neurons in the nBM, while acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme histochemistry was used to analyze the decreases in the number of cholinoceptive neurons in the nBM and the cholinergic fiber density in the Fr1 and HL cortical areas in response to the nBM lesion. The immunotoxin differentially affected the number of ChAT- and AChE-positive neurons in the nBM. 192 IgG-saporin induced a massive, irreversible depletion of the ChAT-positive (cholinergic) neurons (to 11.7% of the control level), accompanied by a less dramatic, but similarly persistent loss of the AChE-positive (cholinoceptive) neurons (to 59.2% of the control value) in the nBM within 2 weeks after the lesion. The difference seen in the depletion of ChAT- and AChE-positive neurons is due to the specificity of the immunotoxin to cholinergic neurons. The cholinergic fiber densities in cortical areas Fr1 and HL remained similarly decreased (to 62% and 68% of the control values, respectively) up to 20 weeks. No significant rebound in AChE activity occurred either in the nBM or in the cortices during the period investigated. This study therefore demonstrated that, similarly to the very extensive reduction in the number of ChAT-positive neurons in the nBM, cortical areas Fr1 and HL underwent long-lasting reductions in the number of AChE-positive fibers in response to specific cholinergic lesioning of the nBM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2013



  • AChE
  • ChAT
  • Cholinergic cell loss
  • Cholinergic forebrain
  • Nucleus basalis magnocellularis
  • Saporin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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