Our previous studies showed that the transcription factor early growth response-1 (EGR1) may play a role in keeping the brain cholinergic function intact in the preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In order to elucidate the mechanisms involved, we first performed data mining on our previous microarray study on postmortem human prefrontal cortex (PFC) for the changes in the expression of EGR1 and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and the relationship between them during the course of AD. The study contained 49 patients, ranging from non-demented controls (Braak stage 0) to late AD patients (Braak stage VI). We found EGR1-mRNA was high in early AD and decreased in late AD stages, while AChE-mRNA was stable in preclinical AD and slightly decreased in late AD stages. A significant positive correlation was found between the mRNA levels of these two molecules. In addition, we studied the relationship between EGR1 and AChE mRNA levels in the frontal cortex of 3-12-months old triple-transgenic AD (3xTg-AD) mice. EGR1- and AChE-mRNA were lower in 3xTg-AD mice compared with wild type (WT) mice. A significant positive correlation between these two molecules was present in the entire group and in each age group of either WT or 3xTg-AD mice. Subsequently, AChE expression was determined following up- or down-regulating EGR1 in cell lines and the EGR1 levels were found to regulate AChE at both the mRNA and protein levels. Dual-luciferase assay and electrophoretic mobility shift assay in the EGR1-overexpressing cells were performed to determine the functionally effective binding sites of the EGR1 on the AChE gene promoter. We conclude that the EGR1 can upregulate AChE expression by a direct effect on its gene promoter, which may contribute significantly to the changes in cholinergic function in the course of AD. The 3xTg-AD mouse model only reflects later stage AD. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.