Alpha7 nicotinic receptors as novel therapeutic targets for inflammation-based diseases

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2011 Mar;68(6):931-49. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0525-1. Epub 2010 Oct 15.


In recent years the etiopathology of a number of debilitating diseases such as type 2 diabetes, arthritis, atherosclerosis, psoriasis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, sepsis, and ulcerative colitis has increasingly been linked to runaway cytokine-mediated inflammation. Cytokine-based therapeutic agents play a major role in the treatment of these diseases. However, the temporospatial changes in various cytokines are still poorly understood and attempts to date have focused on the inhibition of specific cytokines such as TNF-α. As an alternative approach, a number of preclinical studies have confirmed the therapeutic potential of targeting alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor-mediated anti-inflammatory effects through modulation of proinflammatory cytokines. This "cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway" modulates the immune system through cholinergic mechanisms that act on alpha7 receptors expressed on macrophages and immune cells. If the preclinical findings translate into human efficacy this approach could potentially provide new therapies for treating a broad array of intractable diseases and conditions with inflammatory components.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / complications
  • Asthma / complications
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nicotinic Agonists / chemistry
  • Nicotinic Agonists / metabolism*
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Psoriasis / complications
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / complications
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Chrna7 protein, human
  • Cytokines
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor