Nicotinic mechanisms in the autonomic control of organ systems

J Neurobiol. 2002 Dec;53(4):568-79. doi: 10.1002/neu.10145.


Most visceral organs are under the control of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Information on the state and function of these organs is constantly relayed to the central nervous system (CNS) by sensory afferent fibers. The CNS integrates the sensory inputs and sends neural commands back to the organ through the ANS. The autonomic ganglia are the final site for the integration of the message traveling from the CNS. Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are the main mediators of fast synaptic transmission in ganglia, and therefore, are key molecules for the processing of neural information in the ANS. This review focuses on the role of nAChRs in the control of organ systems such as heart, gut, and bladder. The autonomic control of these organ systems is discussed in the light of the results obtained from the analysis of mice carrying mutations targeted to nAChR subunits expressed in the ANS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ganglia, Autonomic / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*


  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, Nicotinic