Mammalian brain expresses multiple nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes that differ in subunit composition, sites of expression and pharmacological and functional properties. Among known subtypes of receptors, α4β2* and α6β2*-nAChR have the highest affinity for nicotine (where * indicates possibility of other subunits). The α4β2*-nAChRs are widely distributed, while α6β2*-nAChR are restricted to a few regions. Both subtypes modulate release of dopamine from the dopaminergic neurons of the mesoaccumbens pathway thought to be essential for reward and addiction α4β2*-nAChR also modulate GABA release in these areas.Identification of selective compounds would facilitate study of nAChR subtypes. An improved understanding of the role of nAChR subtypes may help in developing more effective smoking cessation aids with fewer side effects than current therapeutics. We have screened a series of nicotinic compounds that vary in the distance between the pyridine and the cationic center, in steric bulk, and in flexibility of the molecule. These compounds were screened using membrane binding and synaptosomal function assays, or recordings from GH4C1 cells expressing hα7, to determine affinity, potency and efficacy at four subtypes of nAChRs found in brain, α4β2*, α6β2*, α7 and α3β4*. In addition, physiological assays in gain-of-function mutant mice were used to assess in vivo activity at α4β2* and α6β2*-nAChRs. This approach has identified several compounds with agonist or partial agonist activity that display improved selectivity for α6β2*-nAChR.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience