Cholinesterases preceding major tracts in vertebrate neurogenesis

Bioessays 12 (9):415-420 (1990)
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The role of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) in neurotransmission is well known. But long before synapses are formed in vertebrates, AChE is expressed in young postmitotic neuroblasts that are about to extend the first long tracts. AChE histochemistry can thus be used to map primary steps of brain differentiation. Preceding an possibly inducing AChE in avian brains, the closely related butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) spatially fore-shadows AChE-positive cell areas and the course of their axons. In particular, before spinal motor axons grow, their corresponding rostral sclerotomes and myotomes express BChE, and both their neuronal source and myotomal target cells express AChE. Since axon growth has been found inhibited by acetylcholine, it is postulated that both cholinetsreases can attract neurite growth cones by neutralizing the inhibitor. Thus, the early expression of both cholinesterases that is at least partially independent from classical cholinergic synaptogenesis, sheds new light on the developmental and medical significance of these enzymes.

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