Functional overviews of cholinergic mechanisms in the cerebral cortex have traditionally focused on the release of acetylcholine with modulator and transmitter effects. Recently, however, data have emerged that extend the role of acetylcholine and cholinergic innervations to a range of housekeeping and metabolic functions. These include regulation of amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing with production of amyloid β (Aβ) and other APP fragments and control of the phosphorylation of microtubule-associated protein (MAP) tau. Evidence has been also presented for receptor-ligand like interactions of cholinergic receptors with soluble Aβ peptide and MAP tau, with modulator and signaling effects. Moreover, high-affinity binding of Aβ to the neurotrophin receptor p75 (p75NTR) enriched in basalo-cortical cholinergic projections has been implicated in clearance of Aβ and nucleation of amyloid plaques. Here, we critically evaluate these unorthodox cholinergic mechanisms and discuss their role in neuronal physiology and the biology of Alzheimer’s disease.
© The Author(s) 2015.
Alzheimer’s disease; acetylcholine; amyloid β; p75 neurotrophin receptor; tau protein; volume transmission