Acetylcholine is one of a group of biochemicals known as "neurotransmitters". It carries nerve impulses across the "synapse", from one neuron to another, where it propagates nerve impulses in the receiving neuron. It also carries impulses across the "motor plate", from a neuron to a muscle cell, where it generates muscle contractions. It is important to proper nervous system and muscle functioning.
Acetylcholine functions as a chemical "messager" and its message is "read" via receptors in the neurons and muscle tissues. Special neurons called "cholinoceptive" neurons have acetylcholine receptors. There are two types of acetylcholine receptor - nicotinic and muscarinic - which are found in different parts of the nervous system. Both these receptors respond to acetylcholine.
As well as responding to acetylcholine, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors respond to nicotine (as found in cigarettes) which is what makes nicotine so addictive.
A number of drugs used in the treatment of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis operate by modifying the functioning of acetylcholine, for example Tolterodine, SSRIs and cannabinoids.
- Acetylcholine Receptors
Acetylcholine - Neurotransmitters - Neuroscience Net Links