The toxic effects of anticholinesterases on muscle

  • Helen E. Townsend

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


It has been shown that acute administration of ecothiopate iodine in vivo caused an approximate 80% depression of acetylcholinesterase activity in the diaphragms of mice. Inhibition of acetylcholinesterase was accompanied by an influx of calcium at the junctional region of the diaphragm, which continued during subsequent progressive development of a severe myopathy located in the same region. Myopathy was accompanied by loss of creatine kinase from the muscle and was represented, at the light microscope level, by hypercontraction, Procion Yellow staining and loss of cross striations within the muscle fibres. It appeared to reach a point of maximum severity approximately 3-6 hours after ecothiopate administration and then, by means of some repair/regeneration process, regained an apparently normal morphology within 72 hours of the intoxication. At the ultrastructural level, ecothiopate-induced myopathy was recognised by loss of Z-lines, swelling and vacuolation of mitochondria and sarcoplasmic reticulum, dissarray of myofilaments, crystal formation, and sometimes, by the complete obliteration of sarcomeric structure. The development of myopathy in vitro was shown to be nerve-mediated and to require a functional acetylcholine receptor for its development It was successfully treated therapeutically in vivo by pyridine-2-aldoxime methiodide and prophylactically by pyridostigmine bromide. However, the use of a range of membrane-on channel blockers, and of leupeptin, an inhibitor of calcium-activated-neutral-protease, have been unsuccessful in the prevention of ecothiopate-induced myopathy.
Date of Award1988
Original languageEnglish


  • toxic effects
  • anticholinesterases
  • muscle

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