The pharmacology of tacrine at N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors.
Addition of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor 1,2,3,4-tetra-9-hydroaminoacridine (THA) at 1-3 mM markedly reduced the neuronal cell loss that otherwise followed brief exposure of murine cortical cell cultures to 500 microM N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). This novel antagonism was selective for NMDA receptor-mediated toxicity, as it extended to glutamate toxicity but not to quisqualate toxicity, and was THA concentration-dependent between 100 microM and 3 mM, with IC50 approximately 500 microM. The antagonism was probably not due to enhancement of endogenous cholinergic action, as it was not mimicked by acetylcholine, carbachol, or bethanechol; rather, it likely reflected a recently described interaction of THA with the phencyclidine receptor. Exploration of structural specificity revealed some partial neuron-protection with high concentrations of other cholinesterase inhibitors--physostigmine, neostigmine, and edrophonium, but not the structurally related potassium channel blocker, 4-aminopyridine. Further examination of correlations between THA-like structure, and neuron-protective activity, may provide useful insights in the development of new antagonists of NMDA receptor-mediated neurotoxicity.