Alzheimers disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by cognitive decline associated with a deficit in cholinergic function. Inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and/or butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE), such as donepezil, galantamine or rivastigmine, are widely prescribed as symptomatic treatments for AD. These agents exhibit a wide variation in their pharmacological properties. Here we review clinical data from 1998 to 2009 investigating the effects of different cholinesterase inhibitor treatments on the levels and activities of cholinesterases in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of AD patients. These studies suggest that treatment with rapidly-reversible cholinesterase inhibitors (e.g. donepezil, galantamine, tacrine) is associated with marked and significant upregulation of AChE activities and protein levels in the CSF of AD patients. In contrast, pseudo-irreversible cholinesterase inhibition (e.g. rivastigmine) is associated with a significant decrease in both CSF AChE and BuChE activities, with no upregulation of CSF protein levels. Additionally, donepezil is associated with a decrease in the level of the AChE-R isoform relative to the synaptic AChE-S isoform, whereas rivastigmine seems to increase this ratio. These findings suggest that these agents exert different effects on CSF cholinesterases. The clinical effects of these pharmacological differences are yet to be fully established.
Keywords: Cholinesterase inhibitors, Alzheimer's disease, cerebrospinal fluid, acetylcholinesterase, butyrylcholinesterase
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