Nicotinic receptors and Alzheimer's disease

Curr Med Res Opin. 2003;19(3):169-77. doi: 10.1185/030079903125001631.


Nicotinic receptors (NRs) belong to the group of polymeric receptors of the cell membrane and are key elements of cholinergic transmission. Numerous subtypes of NRs exist with the alpha 4 beta 2 and alpha 7 types being encountered most frequently. Deficiencies in NRs seem to play a role in Alzheimer's disease, which is characterised by accumulation of senile plaques, mainly composed of beta-amyloid peptide (beta A). Although the aetiology of this disease is unknown, different pathogenesis hypotheses implicating alpha 7 NRs have been proposed, with the receptors exerting a direct or indirect action on the mechanism of beta A toxicity. Allosteric modulators of NRs, such as the cholinesterase inhibitor galantamine, that facilitate the action of acetylcholine on these receptors may provide therapeutic benefits in the areas of cognition, attention and antineurodegenerative activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / deficiency*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology


  • Receptors, Nicotinic