Localization of nicotinic receptor subunit mRNAs in monkey brain by in situ hybridization

J Comp Neurol. 2000 Sep 11;425(1):58-69. doi: 10.1002/1096-9861(20000911)425:1<58::aid-cne6>3.0.co;2-x.


Nicotinic receptors are implicated in memory, learning, locomotor activity, and addiction. Identification of the specific receptor subtypes that mediate these behaviors is essential for understanding their role in central nervous system (CNS) function. Although expression of nicotinic receptor transcript has been studied in rodent brain, their localization in the monkey CNS, which may be a better model for the human brain, is not yet known. We therefore investigated the distribution of alpha4, alpha6, alpha7, beta2, beta3, and beta4 receptors subunit mRNAs in the monkey brain by using in situ hybridization. alpha4 and alpha7 mRNAs were very widely expressed, with a substantial degree of overlap in their distribution, except for the reticular nucleus of the thalamus in which alpha7 mRNA was much more prominently expressed. beta2 and beta4 mRNA were also widely distributed, although beta4 was more prominently localized in thalamic nuclei than beta2. The distribution of alpha6 and beta3 mRNA was very distinct from that of the other transcripts, being restricted to catecholaminergic nuclei, the cerebellum, and a few other areas. Although there were similarities in distribution of the nicotinic receptor subunit mRNAs in monkey and rodent brain, there were prominent differences in areas such as the caudate, putamen, locus coeruleus, medial habenula, and cerebellum. In fact, the distribution of alpha4 and alpha7 mRNAs in the monkey caudate and putamen was more similar to that reported in the human than rodent brain. These findings have implications for the development of drug therapies for neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, in which nicotinic receptors are decreased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / chemistry
  • Brain Chemistry / genetics*
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics*
  • Saimiri / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / chemistry
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Chrna7 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha4 subunit
  • nicotinic receptor alpha4beta2
  • nicotinic receptor alpha6