Quik, M., Zhang, D., Perez, X. A., & Bordia, T. (2014). Role for the nicotinic cholinergic system in movement disorders; therapeutic implications. [Review]. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 144(1), 50-59. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2014.05.004
A large body of evidence using experimental animal models shows that the nicotinic cholinergic system is involved in the control of movement under physiological conditions. This work raised the question whether dysregulation of this system may contribute to motor dysfunction and whether drugs targeting nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) may be of therapeutic benefit in movement disorders. Accumulating preclinical studies now show that drugs acting at nAChRs improve drug-induced dyskinesias. The general nAChR agonist nicotine, as well as several nAChR agonists (varenicline, ABT-089 and ABT-894), reduces l-dopa-induced abnormal involuntary movements or dyskinesias up to 60% in parkinsonian nonhuman primates and rodents. These dyskinesias are potentially debilitating abnormal involuntary movements that arise as a complication of l-dopa therapy for Parkinson’s disease. In addition, nicotine and varenicline decrease antipsychotic-induced abnormal involuntary movements in rodent models of tardive dyskinesia. Antipsychotic-induced dyskinesias frequently arise as a side effect of chronic drug treatment for schizophrenia, psychosis and other psychiatric disorders. Preclinical and clinical studies also show that the nAChR agonist varenicline improves balance and coordination in various ataxias. Lastly, nicotine has been reported to attenuate the dyskinetic symptoms of Tourette’s disorder. Several nAChR subtypes appear to be involved in these beneficial effects of nicotine and nAChR drugs including α4β2*, α6β2* and α7 nAChRs (the asterisk indicates the possible presence of other subunits in the receptor). Overall, the above findings, coupled with nicotine’s neuroprotective effects, suggest that nAChR drugs have potential for future drug development for movement disorders.