Bis(7)-tacrine is a potent acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in which two tacrine molecules are linked by a heptylene chain. We tested the effects of bis(7)-tacrine on the spontaneous synaptic activity. Miniature endplate potentials (MEPPs) were recorded extracellularly on slices of electric organ of Torpedo marmorata. Bis(7)-tacrine, at a concentration of 100 nM, increased the magnitudes that describe MEPPs: amplitude, area, rise time, rate of rise, and half-width. We also tested the effect of bis(7)-tacrine on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors by analyzing the currents elicited by acetylcholine (100 μM) in Torpedo electric organ membranes transplanted in Xenopus laevis oocytes. Bis(7)-tacrine inhibited the acetylcholine-induced currents in a reversible manner (IC50 = 162 nM). The inhibition of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors was not voltage dependent, and bis(7)-tacrine increased the desensitization of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The Hill coefficient for bis(7)-tacrine was -0.72 ± 0.02, indicating that bis(7)-tacrine binds to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in a molecular ratio of 1:1, but does not affect the binding of α-bungarotoxin with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. In conclusion, bis(7)-tacrine greatly increases the spontaneous quantal release from peripheral cholinergic terminals at a much lower concentration than tacrine. Bis(7)-tacrine also blocks acetylcholine-induced currents of Torpedo electric organ, although the mechanism is different from that of tacrine: bis(7)-tacrine enhances desensitization, whereas tacrine reduces it.
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