The neuroprotective effect of nicotine in Parkinson's disease models is associated with inhibiting PARP-1 and caspase-3 cleavage

PeerJ. 2017 Oct 19:5:e3933. doi: 10.7717/peerj.3933. eCollection 2017.


Clinical evidence points to neuroprotective effects of smoking in Parkinson's disease (PD), but the molecular mechanisms remain unclear. We investigated the pharmacological pathways involved in these neuroprotective effects, which could provide novel ideas for developing targeted neuroprotective treatments for PD. We used the ETC complex I inhibitor methylpyridinium ion (MPP+) to induce cell death in SH-SY5Y cells as a cellular model for PD and found that nicotine inhibits cell death. Using choline as a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonist, we found that nAChR stimulation was sufficient to protect SH-SY5Y cells against cell death from MPP+. Blocking α7 nAChR with methyllycaconitine (MLA) prevented the protective effects of nicotine, demonstrating that these receptors are necessary for the neuroprotective effects of nicotine. The neuroprotective effect of nicotine involves other pathways relevant to PD. Cleaved Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) and cleaved caspase-3 were decreased by nicotine in 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesioned mice and in MPP+-treated SH-SY5Y cells. In conclusion, our data indicate that nicotine likely exerts neuroprotective effects in PD through the α7 nAChR and downstream pathways including PARP-1 and caspase-3. This knowledge could be pursued in future research to develop neuroprotective treatments for PD.

Keywords: 6-OHDA; Caspase-3; MPP+; Mouse; Neuroprotection; Nicotine; PARP-1; Parkinson’s disease; Smoking.

Grants and funding

The authors received no funding for this work.