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Alpha7 Neuronal Nicotinic Receptor: A Pluripotent Target for Diseases of the Central Nervous System

[ Vol. 13 , Issue. 5 ]


Merouane Bencherif, Sridhar T. Narla and Michal S. Stachowiak   Pages 836 - 845 ( 10 )


Twenty years ago the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) was thought to be vestigial with little biological relevance, but in recent years it has emerged as a functional target with ubiquitous localization and biological roles. In the last decade more than two thousand manuscripts have been published unraveling the multi-dimensional complexity of this target, the heterogeneity of its genetic variants, the spectrum of transducing signals, and the critical roles it plays in pivotal biological functions in the protection and maturation of neurons and stems cells, immune and inflammatory responses, sensory gating, mnemonic and attentional processes. In addition research and development of novel drugs has also promoted an intense debate on the role of activation, desensitization, β -amyloid oligomers, glutamate, and alpha7 nAChR, in cognition, neuronal survival, and neurodegeneration. The initial alpha7 nAChRs transducing enzyme, aptly named after Janus the two-faced roman deity for crossroads and gateways, reflects the dichotomy of reports on alpha7 nAChRs in promoting neuronal survival and cognitive processes, or as the target of β- amyloid oligomers to destabilize neuronal homeostasis leading to an irreversible neurochemical demise and dementia. It is therefore important to understand the functional neural bases of alpha7 nAChRs-mediated improvement of biological functions. The promise of alpha7 nAChR-directed drugs has already recently translated into proof-of-concept in controlled clinical trials but the full promise of this target(s) will be fully unraveled when its impact on neuronal health and survival is tested in controlled long-term clinical trials of disease progression.


Alpha7 nicotinic receptor, neuroprotection, cognition, inflammation, neuroregeneration, central nervous system diseases.


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