Acute and repeated restraint stress have little effect on pyridostigmine toxicity or brain regional cholinesterase inhibition in rats

Xun Song, Hailin Tian, Joseph Bressler, Stephen Pruett, Carey Pope

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33 Scopus citations


Pyridostigmine, a carbamate cholinesterase (ChE) inhibitor, has been used for decades in the treatment of the autoimmune disorder myasthenia gravis and was used prophylactically to protect soldiers from possible organophosphorus nerve agent exposures during the Persian Gulf War. Pyridostigmine is a charged, quaternary compound and thus would not be expected to easily pass the blood-brain barrier. Some studies have suggested, however, that stress may alter blood-brain barrier integrity and allow pyridostigmine to enter the brain. We evaluated the effects of acute and repeated restraint stress on functional signs of cholinergic toxicity (i.e., autonomic dysfunction and involuntary movements) and brain regional cholinesterase inhibition following either acute or repeated pyridostigmine exposures. The acute, oral maximum-tolerated dosage (MTD) of pyridostigmine was estimated at 30 mg/kg. Peak ChE inhibition in whole blood occurred from 0.5 to 4 h after MTD exposure, whereas minimal (< 20%) brain ChE inhibition was noted. For acute restraint studies, rats were either (1) restrained for 90 min and then given pyridostigmine (30 mg/kg, po), (2) given pyridostigmine and immediately restrained for 60 min, or (3) restrained for 3 h, given pyridostigmine, and restrained for an additional 60 min. In all cases, rats were evaluated for cholinergic toxicity (SLUD signs and involuntary movements) and sacrificed 1 h after pyridostigmine treatment. Plasma corticosterone was significantly elevated immediately after a single 60-min session of acute restraint stress, but returned to control levels by 1 and 3 h later. Pyridostigmine-induced toxicity was not enhanced nor was brain ChE inhibition altered by acute restraint stress. Blood-brain barrier permeability, assessed by accumulation of horseradish peroxidase in brain regions following intracardiac injection, was not increased by restraint stress. For repeated restraint studies, rats were given pyridostigmine (0, 3, or 10 mg/kg/ day) immediately prior to daily restraint (60 min) for 14 consecutive days. Plasma corticosterone was elevated at 1 and 7 days but not at 14 days. Pyridostigmine-treated rats in both dosage groups exhibited slight signs of toxicity for the first 3-5 days, after which cholinergic signs dissipated. Repeated restraint had little effect on functional signs of pyridostigmine toxicity, however. Whole blood and diaphragm ChE were markedly reduced 1 h after the last treatment, but stress had no influence on ChE inhibition in either peripheral or central tissues. The results suggest that acute and repeated restraint stress have little effect on pyridostigmine neurotoxicity or apparent entry of pyridostigmine into the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Corticosterone
  • Gulf War illness
  • Horseradish peroxidase
  • Immobilization
  • Pyridostigmine bromide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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