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Abbreviation: ACh
German: Acetylcholin

1 Definition

Acetylcholine (ACh) is a biogenic amine that plays an important role as a neurotransmitter in the regulation of many bodily functions.

2 Occurrence

Acetylcholine can be found both in the CNS as well as in the PNS. In its role as a transmitter at the neuromuscular junction it imparts voluntary contractions of skeletal muscles. In addition, acetylcholine is a signaling substance in preganglionic nerves of the sympathetic nervous system as well as in all nerve cells of the parasympathetic nervous system.

3 Chemistry

The chemical term for acetylcholine (IUPAC) is 2-Acetoxy-N,N,N-trimethylethanaminium, its formula is C7H16NO2 and the molecular weight is 146,12 g/mol.

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4 Synthesis

Acetylcholine is synthesized by the enzyme choline acetyltransferase in synaptic terminals of certain axons. The raw materials are choline and Acetyl-CoA. The finished acetylcholine is stored in vesicles in the neuron's cytoplasm.

5 Function

After an incoming action potential, acetylcholine is released via exocytosis into the synaptic gap. There it interacts with receptors of the postsynaptic membrane, so-called acetylcholine receptors (AChR). As a result, ion permeability of the target cell changes (Ca2+, Na+, K+) which results in either excitation (depolarization) or inhibition (hyperpolarization) of the target cell.

6 Degradation

The enzyme acetylcholinesterase breaks down acetylcholine into choline and acetic acid in the synaptic gap.

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