Quik M, Wonnacott S. α6β2* and α4β2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors as drug targets for Parkinson’s disease. Pharmacol Rev. 2011 Dec;63(4):938-66. doi: 10.1124/pr.110.003269. PMID: 21969327; PMCID: PMC3186078.
Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating movement disorder characterized by a generalized dysfunction of the nervous system, with a particularly prominent decline in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway. Although there is currently no cure, drugs targeting the dopaminergic system provide major symptomatic relief. As well, agents directed to other neurotransmitter systems are of therapeutic benefit. Such drugs may act by directly improving functional deficits in these other systems, or they may restore aberrant motor activity that arises as a result of a dopaminergic imbalance. Recent research attention has focused on a role for drugs targeting the nicotinic cholinergic systems. The rationale for such work stems from basic research findings that there is an extensive overlap in the organization and function of the nicotinic cholinergic and dopaminergic systems in the basal ganglia. In addition, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) drugs could have clinical potential for Parkinson’s disease. Evidence for this proposition stems from studies with experimental animal models showing that nicotine protects against neurotoxin-induced nigrostriatal damage and improves motor complications associated with l-DOPA, the “gold standard” for Parkinson’s disease treatment. Nicotine interacts with multiple central nervous system receptors to generate therapeutic responses but also produces side effects. It is important therefore to identify the nAChR subtypes most beneficial for treating Parkinson’s disease. Here we review nAChRs with particular emphasis on the subtypes that contribute to basal ganglia function. Accumulating evidence suggests that drugs targeting α6β2* and α4β2* nAChR may prove useful in the management of Parkinson’s disease.