Cerebellar nicotinic cholinergic receptors are intrinsic to the cerebellum: implications for diverse functional roles

Cerebellum. 2011 Dec;10(4):748-57. doi: 10.1007/s12311-011-0285-y.


Although recent studies have delineated the specific nicotinic subtypes present in the mammalian cerebellum, very little is known about their location or function within the cerebellum. This is of increased interest since nicotinic receptors (nAChRs) in the cerebellum have recently been implicated in the pathology of autism spectrum disorders. To begin to better understand the roles of these heteromeric nAChRs in the cerebellar circuitry and their therapeutic potential as targets for drug development, we used various chemical and stereotaxic lesion models in conjunction with slice electrophysiology to examine how specific heteromeric nAChR subtypes may influence the surrounding cerebellar circuitry. Using subunit-specific immunoprecipitation of radiolabeled nAChRs in the cerebella following N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine hydrochloride, p-chloroamphetamine, and pendunculotomy lesions, we show that most, if not all, cerebellar nicotinic receptors are present in cells within the cerebellum itself and not in extracerebellar afferents. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the β4-containing, but not the β2-containing, nAChRs intrinsic to the cerebellum can regulate inhibitory synaptic efficacy at two major classes of cerebellar neurons. These tandem findings suggest that nAChRs may present a potential drug target for disorders involving the cerebellum.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / metabolism*
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Male
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Presynaptic Terminals / drug effects
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic