Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and nicotinic cholinergic mechanisms of the central nervous system

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007:47:699-729. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pharmtox.47.120505.105214.


Subtypes of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are constructed from numerous subunit combinations that compose channel-receptor complexes with varied functional and pharmacological characteristics. Structural and functional diversity and the broad presynaptic, postsynaptic, and nonsynaptic locations of nAChRs underlie their mainly modulatory roles throughout the mammalian brain. Presynaptic and preterminal nicotinic receptors enhance neurotransmitter release, postsynaptic nAChRs contribute a small minority of fast excitatory transmission, and nonsynaptic nAChRs modulate many neurotransmitter systems by influencing neuronal excitability. Nicotinic receptors have roles in development and synaptic plasticity, and nicotinic mechanisms participate in learning, memory, and attention. Decline, disruption, or alterations of nicotinic cholinergic mechanisms contribute to dysfunctions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, autism, dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer's disease, and addiction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Receptors, Nicotinic