Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

2013 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Gellman, J. Rick Turner


  • Nicole BrandtEmail author
  • Rachel Flurie
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-1005-9_1351


Acetylcholine is a naturally occurring monoamine neurotransmitter found in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. It is the primary transmitter for the autonomic nervous system and the somatic efferent nerves that innervate skeletal muscle. It was first discovered in 1914 by Sir Henry Dale and colleagues. Acetylcholine is synthesized inside the terminal endings of cholinergic nerve cells where choline is taken up into the nerve terminal and reacts with acetyl coenzyme A via the enzyme choline acetyltransferase.


Once acetylcholine is synthesized, it is stored in vesicles until the nerve is stimulated by calcium entry into the nerve terminal. Stimulation causes the vesicles to release acetylcholine into the synapses between the pre- and postsynaptic nerve fibers. Acetylcholine crosses the synapse and binds to receptors on the postsynaptic cell, exerting its effect. It causes increased permeability of the cell to the cations sodium, potassium, and calcium,...

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References and Readings

  1. Brunton, L. L., Chabner, B. A., & Knollmann, B. C. (2010). Goodman and Gilman’s the pharmacological basis of therapeutics (12th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.Google Scholar
  2. Rang, H. P., Dale, M. M., Ritter, J. M., & Flower, R. J. (2007). Rang and Dale’s pharmacology (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.Google Scholar
  3. Trevor, A. J., Katzung, B. G., & Masters, S. B. (2010). Pharmacology: Examination and board review (9th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PharmacyUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of MarylandBaltimoreUSA