Loss of Cholinergic Synapses on the Spinal Motor Neurons of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

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The expression of vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) was examined immunohistochemically in the cholinergic synapses on the spinal motor neuron of the patient with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (SALS). VAChT immunoreactive synapses were deplected on surviving motor neurons in SALS, while synaptophysin immunoreactivity was undiminished on the same neurons. This discrepancy suggests that in SALS, loss of cholindergic input on lower motor neurons is an early event, and may be part of the cause of death of those motor neurons.

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