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Relationship: 2412


The title of the KER should clearly define the two KEs being considered and the sequential relationship between them (i.e., which is upstream and which is downstream). Consequently all KER titles take the form “upstream KE leads to downstream KE”.  More help

Increased Cholinergic Signaling leads to Cognitive Function, Decreased

Upstream event
Upstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help
Downstream event
Downstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help

Key Event Relationship Overview

The utility of AOPs for regulatory application is defined, to a large extent, by the confidence and precision with which they facilitate extrapolation of data measured at low levels of biological organisation to predicted outcomes at higher levels of organisation and the extent to which they can link biological effect measurements to their specific causes. Within the AOP framework, the predictive relationships that facilitate extrapolation are represented by the KERs. Consequently, the overall WoE for an AOP is a reflection in part, of the level of confidence in the underlying series of KERs it encompasses. Therefore, describing the KERs in an AOP involves assembling and organising the types of information and evidence that defines the scientific basis for inferring the probable change in, or state of, a downstream KE from the known or measured state of an upstream KE. More help

AOPs Referencing Relationship

This table is automatically generated upon addition of a KER to an AOP. All of the AOPs that are linked to this KER will automatically be listed in this subsection. Clicking on the name of the AOP in the table will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Adjacency Weight of Evidence Quantitative Understanding Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Organo-Phosphate Chemicals induced inhibition of AChE leading to impaired cognitive function non-adjacent Moderate Moderate SAROJ AMAR (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

Taxonomic Applicability

Select one or more structured terms that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KER. In general, this will be dictated by the more restrictive of the two KEs being linked together by the KER. Authors can indicate the relevant taxa for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 30-31 and 37-38 of User Handbook) More help

Sex Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant sex for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of the User Handbook). More help

Life Stage Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant life stage for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of User Handbook). More help

Key Event Relationship Description

Provide a brief, descriptive summation of the KER. While the title itself is fairly descriptive, this section can provide details that aren’t inherent in the description of the KEs themselves (see page 39 of the User Handbook). This description section can be viewed as providing the increased specificity in the nature of upstream perturbation (KEupstream) that leads to a particular downstream perturbation (KEdownstream), while allowing the KE descriptions to remain generalised so they can be linked to different AOPs. The description is also intended to provide a concise overview for readers who may want a brief summation, without needing to read through the detailed support for the relationship (covered below). Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs that are not part of this KER, other KERs or other AOPs. This will ensure that the KER is modular and can be used by other AOPs. More help

Acetylcholine signaling underlies the specific aspect of cognitive function including learning and memory, simultaneously acetylcholine is regulated by disperse group of cholinergic neurons (Luchicchi A et al., 2014). Cholinergic signaling refers to the activation of receptors bound with acetylcholine and here receptors defines as acetylcholine or cholinergic receptors which classify into Muscarinic and Nicotinic receptors ( Precious work documented that Acetylcholine (Ach) released from cholinergic input of basal forebrain play important role in supporting neurocognitive function (Berman JA et al., 2007). The loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neuron is directly linked to decrease in Ach release in hippocampus and cortex areas and to Alzheimer related cognitive dysfunction (Bekdash, R.A et al., 2021; Ballinger EC et al., 2016).  Thus cholinergic signaling is a key player in mediating cognitive performance.  Simultaneously previous worked showed that failure of cholinergic circuit of basal forebrain is accountable for cognitive impairment. Cholinergic signaling from medial septal (MS) and diagonal band (DB) to the hippocampus is certainly important for formation of spatial memories.  (Ballinger EC et al., 2016). Thus the role of cholinergic signaling in cognitive function is preserve. Prior work has also shown that stimulation of cholinergic neurons in the MS controlled via cholinergic basal forebrain - hippocampal projection and cholinergic to GABAergic basal forebrain to hippocampal pathway (Ballinger EC et al., 2016). Thus this two pathways worked synergistically to maximize hippocampal-firing (Dannenberg et al., 2015).

Evidence Supporting this KER

Assembly and description of the scientific evidence supporting KERs in an AOP is an important step in the AOP development process that sets the stage for overall assessment of the AOP (see pages 49-56 of the User Handbook). To do this, biological plausibility, empirical support, and the current quantitative understanding of the KER are evaluated with regard to the predictive relationships/associations between defined pairs of KEs as a basis for considering WoE (page 55 of User Handbook). In addition, uncertainties and inconsistencies are considered. More help

The weight of evidence supporting the relationship between decrease cognitive functions is induced by increased cholinergic signaling is moderate.

Biological Plausibility
Define, in free text, the biological rationale for a connection between KEupstream and KEdownstream. What are the structural or functional relationships between the KEs? For example, there is a functional relationship between an enzyme’s activity and the product of a reaction it catalyses. Supporting references should be included. However, it is recognised that there may be cases where the biological relationship between two KEs is very well established, to the extent that it is widely accepted and consistently supported by so much literature that it is unnecessary and impractical to cite the relevant primary literature. Citation of review articles or other secondary sources, like text books, may be reasonable in such cases. The primary intent is to provide scientifically credible support for the structural and/or functional relationship between the pair of KEs if one is known. The description of biological plausibility can also incorporate additional mechanistic details that help inform the relationship between KEs, this is useful when it is not practical/pragmatic to represent these details as separate KEs due to the difficulty or relative infrequency with which it is likely to be measured (see page 40 of the User Handbook for further information).   More help

Cholinergic signaling is determined by the capacity of Ach to bind to respective Ach receptors on target neurons to modulate their excitability (Bekdash, R.A et al., 2021).  Previous study tested the hypothesis that failures of cholinergic circuitry of the basal forebrain are responsible for the cognitive impairments associated with neurodegenerative disorders (Ballinger EC et al., 2016; Bartus et al., 1982). Study have further connect alterations in cholinergic signaling in disorders of attention and cognitive control (Ballinger EC et al., 2016; Higley and Picciotto, 2014).

Uncertainties and Inconsistencies
In addition to outlining the evidence supporting a particular linkage, it is also important to identify inconsistencies or uncertainties in the relationship. Additionally, while there are expected patterns of concordance that support a causal linkage between the KEs in the pair, it is also helpful to identify experimental details that may explain apparent deviations from the expected patterns of concordance. Identification of uncertainties and inconsistencies contribute to evaluation of the overall WoE supporting the AOPs that contain a given KER and to the identification of research gaps that warrant investigation (seep pages 41-42 of the User Handbook).Given that AOPs are intended to support regulatory applications, AOP developers should focus on those inconsistencies or gaps that would have a direct bearing or impact on the confidence in the KER and its use as a basis for inference or extrapolation in a regulatory setting. Uncertainties that may be of academic interest but would have little impact on regulatory application don’t need to be described. In general, this section details evidence that may raise questions regarding the overall validity and predictive utility of the KER (including consideration of both biological plausibility and empirical support). It also contributes along with several other elements to the overall evaluation of the WoE for the KER (see Section 4 of the User Handbook).  More help

Many experimental studies have recommended that cholinergic neurotransmission dysfunction in the cerebral hippocampus and cortex plays an important role in cognitive impairment [R. Schliebs and T. Arendt et al., 2006].

Response-response Relationship
This subsection should be used to define sources of data that define the response-response relationships between the KEs. In particular, information regarding the general form of the relationship (e.g., linear, exponential, sigmoidal, threshold, etc.) should be captured if possible. If there are specific mathematical functions or computational models relevant to the KER in question that have been defined, those should also be cited and/or described where possible, along with information concerning the approximate range of certainty with which the state of the KEdownstream can be predicted based on the measured state of the KEupstream (i.e., can it be predicted within a factor of two, or within three orders of magnitude?). For example, a regression equation may reasonably describe the response-response relationship between the two KERs, but that relationship may have only been validated/tested in a single species under steady state exposure conditions. Those types of details would be useful to capture.  More help
This sub-section should be used to provide information regarding the approximate time-scale of the changes in KEdownstream relative to changes in KEupstream (i.e., do effects on KEdownstream lag those on KEupstream by seconds, minutes, hours, or days?). This can be useful information both in terms of modelling the KER, as well as for analyzing the critical or dominant paths through an AOP network (e.g., identification of an AO that could kill an organism in a matter of hours will generally be of higher priority than other potential AOs that take weeks or months to develop). Identification of time-scale can also aid the assessment of temporal concordance. For example, for a KER that operates on a time-scale of days, measurement of both KEs after just hours of exposure in a short-term experiment could lead to incorrect conclusions regarding dose-response or temporal concordance if the time-scale of the upstream to downstream transition was not considered. More help
Known modulating factors
This sub-section presents information regarding modulating factors/variables known to alter the shape of the response-response function that describes the quantitative relationship between the two KEs (for example, an iodine deficient diet causes a significant increase in the slope of the relationship; a particular genotype doubles the sensitivity of KEdownstream to changes in KEupstream). Information on these known modulating factors should be listed in this subsection, along with relevant information regarding the manner in which the modulating factor can be expected to alter the relationship (if known). Note, this section should focus on those modulating factors for which solid evidence supported by relevant data and literature is available. It should NOT list all possible/plausible modulating factors. In this regard, it is useful to bear in mind that many risk assessments conducted through conventional apical guideline testing-based approaches generally consider few if any modulating factors. More help
Known Feedforward/Feedback loops influencing this KER
This subsection should define whether there are known positive or negative feedback mechanisms involved and what is understood about their time-course and homeostatic limits? In some cases where feedback processes are measurable and causally linked to the outcome, they should be represented as KEs. However, in most cases these features are expected to predominantly influence the shape of the response-response, time-course, behaviours between selected KEs. For example, if a feedback loop acts as compensatory mechanism that aims to restore homeostasis following initial perturbation of a KE, the feedback loop will directly shape the response-response relationship between the KERs. Given interest in formally identifying these positive or negative feedback, it is recommended that a graphical annotation (page 44) indicating a positive or negative feedback loop is involved in a particular upstream to downstream KE transition (KER) be added to the graphical representation, and that details be provided in this subsection of the KER description (see pages 44-45 of the User Handbook).  More help

Domain of Applicability

As for the KEs, there is also a free-text section of the KER description that the developer can use to explain his/her rationale for the structured terms selected with regard to taxonomic, life stage, or sex applicability, or provide a more generalizable or nuanced description of the applicability domain than may be feasible using standardized terms. More help

In vertebrates, ACh is released during neurotransmission via cholinergic neurons, are found in the brain and spinal cord, including the basal forebrain. Brain cholinergic systems regulate vital cognitive processes including learning, memory (Rima, M et al., 2020). In human: Patients experiencing cholinergic poisoning constricted or pinpointed pupils are commonly reported in clinical cohort studies casing organophosphate exposure (, Wadia, 1974, Peter, 2014).  In embryonic fish and frogs: Spontaneous movements in developing fish and frog embryos are demarcated as flexing or side-to-side motion of the trunk or tail and free-swimming activity. The number of movements per minute was recorded by embryonic study under a dissection microscope. In zebrafish embryos spontaneous motion were observed at 1 day post fertilization and in Xenopus at 2 day post fertilization (, Watson, 2014).


List of the literature that was cited for this KER description using the appropriate format. Ideally, the list of references should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide (OECD, 2015). More help

Ahmed NY, Knowles R, Dehorter N. New Insights Into Cholinergic Neuron Diversity. Front Mol Neurosci. 2019 Aug 27;12:204. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00204. PMID: 31551706; PMCID: PMC6736589.

Ballinger EC, Ananth M, Talmage DA, Role LW. Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Circuits and Signaling in Cognition and Cognitive Decline. Neuron. 2016 Sep 21;91(6):1199-1218. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.09.006. PMID: 27657448; PMCID: PMC5036520.

Ballinger EC, Ananth M, Talmage DA, Role LW. Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Circuits and Signaling in Cognition and Cognitive Decline. Neuron. 2016 Sep 21;91(6):1199-1218. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.09.006. PMID: 27657448; PMCID: PMC5036520.

Bartus RT, Dean RL 3rd, Beer B, Lippa AS. The cholinergic hypothesis of geriatric memory dysfunction. Science. 1982; 217:408–414. [PubMed: 7046051].

Bekdash, R.A. The Cholinergic System, the Adrenergic System and the Neuropathology of Alzheimer’s Disease. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22, 1273.

Berman JA, Talmage DA, Role LW. Cholinergic circuits and signaling in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Int Rev Neurobiol. 2007;78:193-223. doi:10.1016/S0074-7742(06)78007-2

Dannenberg H, Pabst M, Braganza O, Schoch S, Niediek J, Bayraktar M, Mormann F, Beck H. Synergy of direct and indirect cholinergic septo-hippocampal pathways coordinates firing in hippocampal networks. J Neurosci. 2015 Jun 3;35(22):8394-410. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4460-14.2015

Hasselmo, M.E.; Sarter, M. Modes and Models of Forebrain Cholinergic Neuromodulation of Cognition. Neuropsychopharmacology2011, 36, 52–73. [CrossRef]

Hayes, W.J.; Jr, & Laws, E.R.; Jr (1991). Organic Phosphorous Pesticides: In Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology. Vol. 3. Acad. Press,1-1189 San Diego, New York, Boston, London, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto. ISBN-10: 0123341604.

Higley MJ, Picciotto MR. Neuromodulation by acetylcholine: examples from schizophrenia and depression. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2014; 29:88–95. [PubMed: 24983212]

Luchicchi A, Bloem B, Viaña JNM, Mansvelder HD, Role LW. Illuminating the role of cholinergic signaling in circuits of attention and emotionally salient behaviors. Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience. 2014;6(24).

Peter, John Victor, Thomas Sudarsan, and John Moran. 2014. “Clinical Features of Organophosphate Poisoning: A Review of Different Classification Systems and Approaches.” Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine 18 (11): 735–45.

Picciotto, M.R.; Higley, M.J.; Mineur, Y.S. Acetylcholine as a Neuromodulator: Cholinergic Signaling Shapes Nervous System Function and Behavior. Neuron 2012, 76, 116–129. [CrossRef]

R. Schliebs and T. Arendt, “The significance of the cholinergic system in the brain during aging and in Alzheimer’s disease,” Journal of Neural Transmission, vol. 113, no. 11, pp. 1625–1644, 2006.

Rima, M., Lattouf, Y., Abi Younes, M. et al. Dynamic regulation of the cholinergic system in the spinal central nervous system. Sci Rep 10, 15338 (2020).

Wadia RS, Sadagopan C, Amin RB, Sardesai HV. Neurological manifestations of organophosphorous insecticide poisoning. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1974 Jul;37(7):841-7.

Watson, Fiona L., Hayden Schmidt, Zackery K. Turman, Natalie Hole, Hena Garcia, Jonathan Gregg, Joseph Tilghman, and Erica A. Fradinger. 2014. “Organophosphate Pesticides Induce Morphological Abnormalities and Decrease Locomotor Activity and Heart Rate in Danio Rerio and Xenopus Laevis.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 33 (6): 1337–45.

Wayne R. Snodgrass, Chapter 60 - Diagnosis and Treatment of Poisoning Due to Pesticides,Editor(s): Robert Krieger, Hayes' Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology (Third Edition), Academic Press, 2010, Pages 1295-1311, ISBN 9780123743671,

Woolf, N.J.; Butcher, L.L. Cholinergic Systems Mediate Action from Movement to Higher Consciousness. Behav. Brain Res. 2011,221, 488–498.