Nicotine prevents in vivo Aβ toxicity in Caenorhabditis elegans via SKN-1

Neurosci Lett. 2021 Sep 14;761:136114. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2021.136114. Epub 2021 Jul 16.


Objective: Nicotine, a main active compound in tobacco, has been shown to attenuate amyloid-β (Aβ) mediated neurotoxicity. However, the detailed underlying mechanisms remains to be elucidated. In this study, nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) had been chosen as the model animal for dissecting the role of nicotine in the prevention of Aβ-induced toxicity in vivo.

Methods: CL2120 and CL4176 transgenic worms of Alzheimer's disease (AD) models were treated with different concentrations of nicotine, and worm paralysis was monitored. Next, the effects of nicotine on Aβ deposits, Aβ oligomers, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and the oxidative stress resistance in worms were measured. Moreover, the pathway responsible for nicotine alleviating Aβ-induced toxicity in vivo was explored by observing the oxidative stress resistance of skn-1 or daf-16 mutants in the presence of nicotine. Furthermore, the worm paralysis and Aβ deposits were further checked in CL4176 worms with skn-1 RNA interference under the condition of nicotine.

Results: Nicotine (5 μM) attenuated AD-like symptoms of worm paralysis in CL2120 and CL4176 transgenic C. elegans. Nicotine did not inhibit Aβ aggregation in vitro, however it suppressed Aβ deposits and reduced the Aβ oligomers to alleviate the toxicity induced by Aβ overexpression in C. elegans. Although nicotine did not possess apparent intrinsic anti-oxidative activity, it decreased in vivo reactive oxygen species (ROS). Nicotine enhanced the oxidative stress resistance of C. elegans, which was mediated by SKN-1 but not DAF-16 signaling. Furthermore, skn-1 RNAi abrogated the effect of nicotine reducing Aβ deposits in vivo and completely blocked nicotine preventing Aβ induced worm paralysis.

Conclusions: Nicotine reduces Aβ oligomer formation and alleviates Aβ-induced paralysis of C. elegans, which is mediated by SKN-1 signaling.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid-β; Caenorhabditis elegans; Nicotine; Reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / drug effects
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Transcription Factors
  • skn-1 protein, C elegans
  • Nicotine