The pharmacological properties of acetylarsenocholine, an arsenic analogue of acetylcholine, were investigated. Acetylarsenocholine behaved as a cholinergic ligand both in the central and peripheral nervous system. It bound to nicotinic receptors in rat medulla-pons with a KD of 15 microM and to muscarinic receptors in rat cerebral cortex with a KD of 10 microM. It behaved also as an agonist at presynaptic muscarinic receptors in guinea pig ileum myenteric plexus preparation. Arsenocholine is an alternative substrate for choline acetyltransferase and acetylarsenocholine is an alternative substrate for acetylcholinesterase.