How does a AChE inhibitor affect the synapse?

Say someone is exposed to a chemical that deactivates acetylcholinesterase. What happens to synapses of muscle fiber cells? Obviously ACh doesn't get dissolved to acetate and choline, but what happens then? Does the synapse get flooded with more and more ACh?

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  • 7 years ago
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    Yes that is exactly what happens. To use a mechanical metaphor the synapse become "jammed" in the "on" position. As a result, the muscles that the synapse controls contract and cannot relax afterwards. If the dose is big enough, this will eventually cause death by suffocation; the diaphragm cannot relax you see?

    This process is used in some rather dangerous pesticides called organophosphates. It is also the basis for a type of chemical weapon, sometimes called "Nerve Gas".

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