Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are expressed throughout the hippocampus, and nicotinic signaling plays an important role in neuronal function. In the context of learning and memory related behaviors associated with hippocampal function, a potentially significant feature of nAChR activity is the impact it has on synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity in hippocampal neurons has long been considered a contributing cellular mechanism of learning and memory. These same kinds of cellular mechanisms are a factor in the development of nicotine addiction. Nicotinic signaling has been demonstrated by in vitro studies to affect synaptic plasticity in hippocampal neurons via multiple steps, and the signaling has also been shown to evoke synaptic plasticity in vivo. This review focuses on the nAChRs subtypes that contribute to hippocampal synaptic plasticity at the cellular and circuit level. It also considers nicotinic influences over long-term changes in the hippocampus that may contribute to addiction.
nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; long-term potentiation; long-term depression; tobacco addiction; nicotine addiction
It is now recognized that astrocytes participate in synaptic communication through intimate interactions with neurons. A principal mechanism is through the release of gliotransmitters (GTs) such as ATP, D-serine and most notably, glutamate, in response to astrocytic calcium elevations. We and others have shown that amyloid-β (Aβ), the toxic trigger for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), interacts with hippocampal α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Since α7nAChRs are highly permeable to calcium and are expressed on hippocampal astrocytes, we investigated whether Aβ could activate astrocytic α7nAChRs in hippocampal slices and induce GT glutamate release. We found that biologically-relevant concentrations of Aβ1-42 elicited α7nAChR-dependent calcium elevations in hippocampal CA1 astrocytes and induced NMDAR-mediated slow inward currents (SICs) in CA1 neurons. In the Tg2576 AD mouse model for Aβ over-production and accumulation, we found that spontaneous astrocytic calcium elevations were of higher frequency compared to wildtype (WT). The frequency and kinetic parameters of AD mice SICs indicated enhanced gliotransmission, possibly due to increased endogenous Aβ observed in this model. Activation of α7nAChRs on WT astrocytes increased spontaneous inward currents on pyramidal neurons while α7nAChRs on astrocytes of AD mice were abrogated. These findings suggest that, at an age that far precedes the emergence of cognitive deficits and plaque deposition, this mouse model for AD-like amyloidosis exhibits augmented astrocytic activity and glutamate GT release suggesting possible repercussions for preclinical AD hippocampal neural networks that contribute to subsequent cognitive decline.
The entorhinal cortex is a part of the hippocampal complex that is essential to learning and memory, and nicotine affects memory by activating nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the hippocampal complex. However, it is not clear what types of neurons in the entorhinal cortex are sensitive to nicotine, and whether they play a role in nicotine-induced memory functions. Here we have used voltage sensitive dye imaging (VSDI) methods to locate the neuronal populations responsive to nicotine in entorhino-hippocampal slices, and to clarify which nAChR subtypes are involved. In combination with patch-clamp methods, we found that a concentration of nicotine comparable to exposure during smoking depolarized neurons in layer VI of the EC (ECVI) by acting through the non-α7 subtype of nAChRs. Neurons in the subiculum (Sb; close to the deep EC layers) also contain nicotine-sensitive neurons, and it is known that Sb neurons project to the ECVI. When we recorded evoked EPSCs (eEPSCs) from ECVI neurons while stimulating the Sb near the CA1 region, a low dose of nicotine not only enhanced synaptic transmission (by increasing eEPSC amplitude), but also enhanced plasticity by converting tetanus stimulation-induced short-term potentiation (STP) to long-term potentiation (LTP); nicotine enhanced synaptic transmission and plasticity of ECVI synapses by acting on both the α7 and non-α7 subtypes of nAChRs. Our data suggest that ECVI neurons are important regulators of hippocampal function and plasticity during smoking.
Nicotinic; acetylcholine; hippocampus; interneuron; patch clamp; channel
Although converging evidence has suggested that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) play a role in the modulation of GABA release in rat hippocampus, the specific involvement of different nAChR subtypes at presynaptic level is still a matter of debate. In the present work we investigated, using selective α7 and α4β2 nAChR agonists, the presence of different nAChR subtypes on hippocampal GABA nerve endings to assess to what extent and through which mechanisms they stimulate endogenous GABA release.
All agonists elicited GABA overflow. Choline (Ch)-evoked GABA overflow was dependent to external Ca2+, but unaltered in the presence of Cd2+, tetrodotoxin (TTX), dihydro-β-erythroidine (DHβE) and 1-(4,4-Diphenyl-3-butenyl)-3-piperidinecarboxylic acid hydrochloride SKF 89976A. The effect of Ch was blocked by methyllycaconitine (MLA), α-bungarotoxin (α-BTX), dantrolene, thapsigargin and xestospongin C, suggesting that GABA release might be triggered by Ca2+ entry into synaptosomes through the α7 nAChR channel with the involvement of calcium from intracellular stores. Additionally, 5-Iodo-A-85380 dihydrochloride (5IA85380) elicited GABA overflow, which was Ca2+ dependent, blocked by Cd2+, and significantly inhibited by TTX and DHβE, but unaffected by MLA, SKF 89976A, thapsigargin and xestospongin C and dantrolene. These findings confirm the involvement of α4β2 nAChR in 5IA85380-induced GABA release that seems to occur following membrane depolarization and opening calcium channels.
Rat hippocampal synaptosomes possess both α7 and α4β2 nAChR subtypes, which can modulate GABA release via two distinct mechanisms of action. The finding that GABA release evoked by the mixture of sub-maximal concentration of 5IA85380 plus sub-threshold concentrations of Ch was significantly larger than that elicited by the sum of the effects of the two agonists is compatible with the possibility that they coexist on the same nerve terminals. These findings would provide the basis for possible selective pharmacological strategies to treat neuronal disorders that involve the dysfunction of hippocampal cholinergic system.
Neuropeptides collaborate with conventional neurotransmitters to regulate synaptic output. Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) co-localizes with acetylcholine in presynaptic nerve terminals, is released by stimulation, and enhances nicotinic acetylcholine receptor- (nAChR-) mediated responses. Such findings implicate PACAP in modulating nicotinic neurotransmission, but relevant synaptic mechanisms have not been explored. We show here that PACAP acts via selective high-affinity G-protein coupled receptors (PAC1Rs) to enhance transmission at nicotinic synapses on parasympathetic ciliary ganglion (CG) neurons by rapidly and persistently increasing the frequency and amplitude of spontaneous, impulse-dependent nicotinic excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs). Of the canonical adenylate cyclase (AC) and phospholipase-C (PLC) transduction cascades stimulated by PACAP/PAC1R signaling, only AC-generated signals are critical for synaptic modulation since the increases in sEPSC frequency and amplitude were mimicked by 8-Bromo-cAMP, blocked by inhibiting AC or cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), and unaffected by inhibiting PLC. Despite its ability to increase agonist-induced nAChR currents, PACAP failed to influence nAChR-mediated impulse-independent miniature EPSC amplitudes (quantal size). Instead, evoked transmission assays reveal that PACAP/PAC1R signaling increased quantal content, indicating it modulates synaptic function by increasing vesicular ACh release from presynaptic terminals. Lastly, signals generated by the retrograde messenger, nitric oxide- (NO-) are critical for the synaptic modulation since the PACAP-induced increases in spontaneous EPSC frequency, amplitude and quantal content were mimicked by NO donor and absent after inhibiting NO synthase (NOS). These results indicate that PACAP/PAC1R activation recruits AC-dependent signaling that stimulates NOS to increase NO production and control presynaptic transmitter output at neuronal nicotinic synapses.
Ciliary ganglion; quantal analysis; patch-clamp; neuropeptide; nitric oxide
Learning induces plastic changes in synapses. However, the regulatory molecules that orchestrate learning-induced synaptic changes are largely unknown. Although it is well established that cholinergic inputs from the medial septum modulate learning and memory, evidence for the cholinergic regulation of learning-induced synaptic plasticity is lacking. Here we find that the activation of muscarinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptors (mAChRs) mediates the contextual fear learning-driven strengthening of hippocampal excitatory pyramidal synapses through the synaptic incorporation of AMPA-type glutamate receptors (AMPARs). Contextual fear learning also enhances the strength of inhibitory synapses on hippocampal pyramidal CA1 neurons, in a manner mediated by the activation of, not mAChRs, but, nicotinic AChRs (nAChRs). We observe a significant correlation between the learning-induced increases in excitatory and inhibitory synaptic strength at individual pyramidal neurons. Understanding the mechanisms underlying cholinergic regulation of learning-induced hippocampal synaptic plasticity may help the development of new therapies for cognitive disorders.
Cholinergic signalling modulates learning and memory; however, its influence on learning-induced synaptic plasticity is less clear. Mitsushima et al. show that acetylcholine simultaneously strengthens both excitatory and inhibitory synapses onto CA1 pyramidal neurons following an inhibitory avoidance task.
Prejunctional nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) amplify postganglionic sympathetic neurotransmission, and there are indications that intraterminal Ca2+ stores might be involved. However, the mechanisms by which nAChR activation stimulates neurotransmitter release at such junctions is unknown. Rapid local delivery (picospritzing) of the nAChR agonist epibatidine was combined with intracellular sharp microelectrode recording to monitor spontaneous and field-stimulation-evoked neurotransmitter release from sympathetic nerve terminals in the mouse isolated vas deferens. Locally applied epibatidine (1 µM) produced ‘epibatidine-induced depolarisations’ (EIDs) that were similar in shape to spontaneous excitatory junction potentials (SEJPs) and were abolished by nonselective nAChR antagonists and the purinergic desensitizing agonist α,β-methylene ATP. The amplitude distribution of EIDs was only slightly shifted towards lower amplitudes by the selective α7 nAChR antagonists α-bungarotoxin and methyllcaconitine, the voltage-gated Na+ channel blocker tetrodotoxin or by blocking voltage-gated Ca2+ channels with Cd2+. Lowering the extracellular Ca2+ concentration reduced the frequency of EIDs by 69%, but more surprisingly, the Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release blocker ryanodine greatly decreased the amplitude (by 41%) and the frequency of EIDs by 36%. Ryanodine had no effect on electrically-evoked neurotransmitter release, paired-pulse facilitation, SEJP frequency, SEJP amplitude or SEJP amplitude distribution. These results show that activation of non-α7 nAChRs on sympathetic postganglionic nerve terminals induces high-amplitude junctional potentials that are argued to represent multipacketed neurotransmitter release synchronized by intraterminal Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release, triggered by Ca2+ influx directly through the nAChR. This nAChR-induced neurotransmitter release can be targeted pharmacologically without affecting spontaneous or electrically-evoked neurotransmitter release.
Local control of calcium concentration within neurons is critical for signaling and regulation of synaptic communication in neural circuits. How local control can be achieved in the absence of physical compartmentalization is poorly understood. Challenging examples are provided by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that contain α7 nicotinic receptor subunits (α7-nAChRs). These receptors are highly permeable to calcium and are concentrated on aspiny dendrites of interneurons which lack obvious physical compartments for constraining calcium diffusion. Using functional proteomics on rat brain, we show that α7-nAChRs are associated with the membrane calcium pump PMCA2. Analysis of α7-nAChR function in hippocampal interneurons in culture shows that PMCA2 activity limits the duration of calcium elevations produced by the receptors. Unexpectedly, PMCA2 inhibition triggers rapid calcium-dependent loss of α7-nAChR clusters. This extreme regulatory response is mediated by CaMKII, involves proteasome activity, depends on the second intracellular loop of α7-nAChR subunits, and is specific in that it does not alter two other classes of calcium-permeable ionotropic receptors on the same neurons. A critical link is provided by the scaffold protein PSD-95, which is associated with α7-nAChRs and constrains their mobility as revealed by single-particle tracking on neurons. The PSD-95 link is required for PMCA2-mediated removal of α7-nAChR clusters. This three-component combination of PMCA2/PSD-95/α7-nAChR offers a novel mechanism for tight control of calcium dynamics in neurons.
Nicotine exerts its central effects by activating pre- and post-synaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Pre-synaptic nAChRs modulate the release of many neurotransmitters that bind to post-synaptic receptors. These may be coupled to the activation of cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA2), which hydrolyzes arachidonic acid (AA) from membrane phospholipids. We hypothesized that nicotine would modify brain signaling involving AA by binding to nAChRs. Nicotine (0.1 mg/kg s.c.) or saline was injected 2 or 10 min before infusing [1-14C]AA in unanesthetized rats. The AA incorporation coefficient k* (a marker of the AA signal) was measured in 80 brain regions by quantitative autoradiography. Nicotine, compared to saline, when given 2 min before [1-14C]AA, significantly decreased k* for AA in 26 regions, including cerebral cortex, thalamus and habenula-interpeduncular regions, by 13% to 45%. These decreases could be entirely prevented by pretreatment with mecamylamine (1.0 mg/kg s.c.). When given 10 min before [1-14C]AA, nicotine did not alter any value of k*. In summary, nicotine given to unanesthetized rats rapidly reduces signaling involving AA in brain regions containing nAChRs, likely by modulating pre-synaptic release of neurotransmitters. The effect shows rapid desensitization and is produced at a nicotine dose equivalent to smoking one cigarette in humans.
arachidonic acid; imaging; receptors; mecamylamine; nicotine; phospholipase A2
Nicotine modulation of learning may contribute to its abuse liability. The role of hippocampal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the effects of acute, chronic and withdrawal from chronic nicotine on learning was assessed via intrahippocampal drug infusion in mice. Acute dorsal hippocampal nicotine infusion enhanced contextual fear conditioning. Conversely, chronic intrahippocampal infusion of a matched dose had no effect, and withdrawal from chronic infusion impaired learning. Thus, hippocampal functional adaptation, evidenced by learning deficits during abstinence, occurs with the transition from acute to chronic nicotine exposure. To investigate which hippocampal nAChRs mediate these adaptations, C57BL/6, β2 nAChR subunit knockout (KO), and wildtype (WT) mice treated chronically with systemic nicotine received intrahippocampal dihydro-β-erythroidine (a high affinity nAChR antagonist). Intrahippocampal dihydro-β-erythroidine precipitated learning deficits in all but the KO mice. Therefore, the action of nicotine at hippocampal β2* nAChRs mediates adaptations in hippocampal function that underlie withdrawal deficits in contextual fear conditioning.
nicotine; withdrawal; hippocampus; learning; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; dihydro-β-erythroidine; addiction; cognition
Rapid activation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) at various anatomical and cellular locations in the hippocampus differentially modulates the operation of hippocampal circuits. However, it is largely unknown how the continued presence of nicotine affects the normal operation of hippocampal circuits. Here, we used single and dual whole-cell recordings to address this question. We found that horizontally oriented interneurons in the stratum oriens/alveus continuously discharged action potentials in the presence of nicotine. In these interneurons, bath application of nicotine produced slow inward currents that were well maintained and inhibited by the non-α7 antagonist dihydro-β-erythroidine. Single-cell reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis showed that nicotine-responding interneurons were consistently positive for the α2 subunit mRNA. These observations suggest that in the presence of nicotine, a subset of interneurons in the stratum oriens/alveus are continuously excited due to the sustained activation of α2* nAChRs. These interneurons were synaptically connected to pyramidal cells, and nicotine increased inhibitory baseline currents at the synapses and suppressed phasic inhibition at the same synapses. Nicotine-induced inhibitory activity increased background noise and masked small phasic inhibition in pyramidal cells, originating from other interneurons in the stratum radiatum. Thus, the continued presence of nicotine alters the normal operation of hippocampal circuits by gating inhibitory circuits through activating a non-desensitizing α2 nAChR subtype on a distinct population of interneurons.
nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; α2 subunit; stratum oriens/alveus; dual whole-cell recordings; inhibitory postsynaptic currents
Presynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) have long been implicated in the modulation of CNS circuits. We previously reported that brief exposure to low concentrations of nicotine induced sustained potentiation of glutamatergic transmission at ventral hippocampal (vHipp)-striatal synapses. Here, we exploited nAChR subtype-selective antagonists and agonists and α7*nAChR knockout mutant mice (α7-/-) to elucidate the signaling mechanisms underlying nAChR-mediated modulation of synaptic transmission. Using a combination of micro-slices culture from WT and α7-/-mice, calcium imaging, and immuno-histochemical techniques, we found that nicotine elicits localized and oscillatory increases in intracellular Ca2+ along vHipp axons that persists for up to 30 minutes. The sustained phase of the nicotine-induced Ca2+ response was blocked by α-BgTx but not by DHβE and was mimicked by α7*nAChR agonists but not by non-α7*nAChR agonists. In vHipp slices from α7-/- mice, nicotine elicited only transient increases of axonal Ca2+ signals and did not activate CaMKII. The sustained phase of the nicotine-induced Ca2+ response required localized activation of CaMKII, phospholipase C, and IP3 receptor mediated Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR). In conclusion, activation of presynaptic nAChRs by nicotine elicits Ca2+ influx into the presynaptic axons, the sustained phase of the nicotine-induced Ca2+ response requires that axonal α7*nAChR activate a downstream signaling network in the vHipp axons.
α7 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (α7-nAChR) form Ca2+-permeable homopentameric channels modulating cortical network activity and cognitive processing. They are located pre- and postsynaptically and are highly abundant in hippocampal GABAergic interneurons. It is unclear how α7-nAChRs are positioned in specific membrane microdomains, particularly in cultured neurons which are devoid of cholinergic synapses. To address this issue, we monitored by single particle tracking the lateral mobility of individual α7-nAChRs labeled with α-bungarotoxin linked to quantum dots in live rat cultured hippocampal interneurons. Quantitative analysis revealed different modes of lateral diffusion of α7-nAChR dependent on their subcellular localization. Confined receptors were found in the immediate vicinity of glutamatergic and GABAergic postsynaptic densities, as well as in extrasynaptic clusters of α-bungarotoxin labeling on dendrites. α7-nAChRs avoided entering postsynaptic densities, but exhibited reduced mobility and long dwell times at perisynaptic locations, indicative of regulated confinement. Their diffusion coefficient was lower, on average, at glutamatergic than at GABAergic perisynaptic sites, suggesting differential, synapse-specific tethering mechanisms. Disruption of the cytoskeleton affected α7-nAChR mobility and cell surface expression, but not their ability to form clusters. Finally, using tetrodotoxin to silence network activity, as well as exposure to a selective α7-nAChR agonist or antagonist, we observed that α7-nAChRs cell surface dynamics is modulated by chronic changes in neuronal activity. Altogether, given their high Ca2+-permeability, our results suggest a possible role of α7-nAChR on interneurons for activating Ca2+-dependent signaling in the vicinity of GABAergic and glutamatergic synapses.
Central to synaptic function are protein scaffolds associated with neurotransmitter receptors. α7 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) modulate network activity, neuronal survival and cognitive processes in the CNS, but protein scaffolds that interact with these receptors are unknown. Here we show that the PDZ-domain containing protein PICK1 binds to α7 nAChRs and plays a role in their clustering. PICK1 interacted with the α7 cytoplasmic loop in yeast in a PDZ-dependent way, and the interaction was confirmed in recombinant pull-down experiments and by co-precipitation of native proteins. Some α7 and PICK1 clusters were adjacent at the surface of SH-SY5Y cells and GABAergic interneurons in hippocampal cultures. Expression of PICK1 caused decreased α7 clustering on the surface of the interneurons in a PDZ-dependent way. These data show that PICK1 negatively regulates surface clustering of α7 nAChRs on hippocampal interneurons, which may be important in inhibitory functions of α7in the hippocampus.
Nicotinic receptor; α7 nAChR; PICK1; Clustering; Hippocampus; GABAergic interneuron
Smoking is a significant health concern and strongly correlated with clinical depression. Depression is associated with decreased extracellular NE concentrations in brain. Smokers may be self-medicating and alleviating their depression through nicotine stimulated norepinephrine (NE) release. Several antidepressants inhibit NE transporter (NET) function, thereby augmenting extracellular NE concentrations. Antidepressants, such as bupropion, also inhibit nicotinic receptor (nAChR) function. The current study determined if a recently discovered novel nAChR antagonist, N,N′-dodecane-1,12-diyl-bis-3-picolinium dibromide (bPiDDB), inhibits nicotine-evoked NE release from superfused rat hippocampal slices. Previous studies determined that bPiDDB potently (IC50 = 2 nM) inhibits nicotine-evoked striatal [3H]dopamine (DA) release in vitro, nicotine-evoked DA release in nucleus accumbens in vivo, and nicotine self-administration in rats. In the current study, nicotine stimulated [3H]NE release from rat hippocampal slices (EC50 = 50 μM). bPiDDB inhibited (IC50 = 430 nM; Imax = 90%) [3H]NE release evoked by 30 μM nicotine. For comparison, the nonselective nAChR antagonist, mecamylamine, and the α7 antagonist, methyllycaconitine, also inhibited nicotine-evoked [3H]NE release (IC50 = 31 and 275 nM, respectively; Imax = 91% and 72%, respectively). Inhibition by bPiDDB and mecamylamine was not overcome by increasing nicotine concentrations; Schild regression slope was different from unity, consistent with allosteric inhibition. Thus, bPiDDB was 200-fold more potent inhibiting nAChRs mediating nicotine-evoked [3H]DA release from striatum than those mediating nicotine-evoked [3H]NE release from hippocampus.
antidepressants; nicotine; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; norepinephrine release; smoking cessation
General anesthesia produces multiple endpoints including immobility, hypnosis, sedation and amnesia. Tonic inhibition via γ–aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABAA-Rs) may play a role in mediating behavioral endpoints that are suppressed by low concentrations of anesthetics (e.g., hypnosis and amnesia). GABAA-Rs containing the α4 subunit are highly concentrated in the hippocampus and thalamus, and when combined with δ subunits they mediate tonic inhibition, which is sensitive to low concentrations of isoflurane.
The present study used a GABAA α4 receptor knockout mouse line to evaluate the contribution of α4-containing GABAAreceptors to the effects of immobility, hypnosis and amnesia produced by isoflurane. Knockout mice and their wild-type counterparts were assessed on three behavioral tests: conditional fear (to assess amnesia), loss of righting reflex (to assess hypnosis), and MAC, the minimum alveolar concentration of inhaled anesthetic necessary to produce immobility in response to noxious stimulation in 50% of subjects (to assess immobility).
Genetic inactivation of the α4 subunit reduced the amnestic effect of isoflurane, minimally affected loss of righting reflex, and had no effect on immobility.
These results lend support to the hypothesis that different sites of action mediate different anesthetic endpoints and suggest that α4-containing GABAA-R are important mediators of the amnestic effect of isoflurane on hippocampal-dependent declarative memory.
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are widely expressed throughout the central nervous system and participate in a variety of physiological functions. Recent advances have revealed roles of nAChRs in the regulation of synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity, particularly in the hippocampus and midbrain dopamine centers. In general, activation of nAChRs causes membrane depolarization and directly and indirectly increases the intracellular calcium concentration. Thus, when nAChRs are expressed on presynaptic membranes their activation generally increases the probability of neurotransmitter release. When expressed on postsynaptic membranes, nAChR-initiated calcium signals and depolarization activate intracellular signaling mechanisms and gene transcription. Together, the presynaptic and postsynaptic effects of nAChRs generate and facilitate the induction of long-term changes in synaptic transmission. The direction of hippocampal nAChR-mediated synaptic plasticity –either potentiation or depression – depends on the timing of nAChR activation relative to coincident presynaptic and postsynaptic electrical activity, and also depends on the location of cholinergic stimulation within the local network. Therapeutic activation of nAChRs may prove efficacious in the treatment of neuropathologies where synaptic transmission is compromised, as in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Nicotine; Synaptic Plasticity; LTP; Development; Hippocampus; Ventral Tegmental Area
β-amyloid (Aβ) accumulation is described as a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Aβ perturbs a number of synaptic components including nicotinic acetylcholine receptors containing α7 subunits (α7-nAChRs), which are abundantly expressed in the hippocampus and found on GABAergic interneurons. We have previously demonstrated the existence of a novel, heteromeric α7β2-nAChR in basal forebrain cholinergic neurons that exhibits high sensitivity to acute Aβ exposure. To extend our previous work, we evaluated the expression and pharmacology of α7β2-nAChRs in hippocampal interneurons and their sensitivity to Aβ.
GABAergic interneurons in the CA1 subregion of the hippocampus expressed functional α7β2-nAChRs, which were characterized by relatively slow whole-cell current kinetics, pharmacological sensitivity to dihydro-β-erythroidine (DHβE), a nAChR β2* subunit selective blocker, and α7 and β2 subunit interaction using immunoprecipitation assay. In addition, α7β2-nAChRs were sensitive to 1 nM oligomeric Aβ. Similar effects were observed in identified hippocampal interneurons prepared from GFP-GAD mice.
These findings suggest that Aβ modulation of cholinergic signaling in hippocampal GABAergic interneurons via α7β2-nAChRs could be an early and critical event in Aβ-induced functional abnormalities of hippocampal function, which may be relevant to learning and memory deficits in AD.
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; Amyloid; Hippocampal interneuron; Patch-clamp; Acutely dissociated neuron
Spontaneous nicotinic cholinergic activity is widespread in the developing nervous system. One of the major components mediating this activity is the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor with α7 subunits (α7-nAChR) and high relative calcium permeability. We recently reported that α7-nAChRs co-localize in part with GABAA receptors during development, and the sites become co-innervated by cholinergic and GABAergic terminals. Patch-clamp recording either from embryonic chick ciliary ganglion neurons or from early postnatal mouse hippocampal interneurons reveals that α7-nAChR activation can impose a rapid and reversible decrease in GABAA receptor responses. The effect extends to GABAergic synaptic currents, and depends on intracellular calcium, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, and MAP kinase in the postsynaptic cell. Over the longer term, nicotinic activity has a more profound effect: it determines the time during development when GABAergic signaling converts from excitation to inhibition. It does this by changing the pattern of chloride transporters to establish the mature chloride gradient required for inhibitory GABAergic responses. The excitatory phase of GABAergic signaling is critical for proper development and integration of neurons into circuits. By driving the conversion of GABAergic signaling, nicotinic activity not only terminates one set of developmental instructions, but also initiates another by collaborating with GABAergic inhibition to impose new instructions. The results reveal a multi-layered pattern of activity-dependent controls in development and indicate the significance of nicotinic signaling in shaping these events.
nicotinic; GABAergic; excitation; development; synapse; activity
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), a form of diencephalic amnesia caused by thiamine deficiency, results in severe anterograde memory loss. Pyrithiamine-induced thiamine deficiency (PTD), an animal model of WKS, produces cholinergic abnormalities including decreased functional hippocampal acetylcholine (ACh) release and poor spatial memory. Increasing hippocampal ACh levels has increased performance in PTD animals. Intraseptal bicuculline (GABAA antagonist) augments hippocampal ACh release in normal animals and we found it (0.50μg/μl & 0.75μg/μl) also increased in-vivo hippocampal ACh release in PTD animals. However, the 0.75 μg/μl dose produced a greater change in hippocampal ACh release in control animals. The 0.50μg/μl dose of bicuculline was then selected to determine if it could enhance spontaneous alternation performance in PTD animals. This dose of bicuculline significantly increased hippocampal ACh levels above baseline in both PTD and control rats and resulted in complete behavioral recovery in PTD animals, without altering performance in control rats. This suggests that balancing ACh-GABA interactions in the septohippocampal circuit may be an effective therapeutic approach in certain amnestic syndromes.
septohippocampal pathway; bicuculline; microdialysis; spontaneous alternation
The level of expression of functional α7-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons is believed to be very low compared to hippocampal CA1 interneurons, and for many years this expression was largely overlooked. However, high densities of expression of functional α7-containing nAChRs in CA1 pyramidal neurons may not be necessary for triggering important cellular and network functions, especially if activation of α7-containing nAChRs occurs in the presence of positive allosteric modulators such as PNU-120596.
An approach previously developed for α7-containing nAChRs expressed in tuberomammillary neurons was applied to investigate functional CA1 pyramidal α7-containing nAChRs using rat coronal hippocampal slices and patch-clamp electrophysiology. The majority (∼71%) of tested CA1 pyramidal neurons expressed low densities of functional α7-containing nAChRs as evidenced by small whole-cell responses to choline, a selective endogenous agonist of α7 nAChRs. These responses were potentiated by PNU-120596, a novel positive allosteric modulator of α7 nAChRs. The density of functional α7-containing nAChRs expressed in CA1 pyramidal neurons (and thus, the normalized net effect of activation, i.e., response net charge per unit of membrane capacitance per unit of time) was estimated to be ∼5% of the density observed in CA1 interneurons. The results of this study demonstrate that despite low levels of expression of functional pyramidal α7-containing nAChRs, physiological levels of choline (∼10 µM) are sufficient to activate these receptors and transiently depolarize and even excite CA1 pyramidal neurons in the presence of PNU-120596. The observed effects are possible because in the presence of 10 µM choline and 1–5 µM PNU-120596, a single opening of an individual pyramidal α7-containing nAChR ion channel appears to transiently depolarize (∼4 mV) the entire pyramidal neuron and occasionally trigger action potentials.
1) The majority of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons express functional α7-containing nAChRs. In the absence of PNU-120596, a positive allosteric modulator of α7 nAChRs, a lack of responsiveness of some hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons to focal application of 0.5–1 mM choline does not imply a lack of expression of functional α7-containing nAChRs in these neurons. Rather, it may indicate a lack of detection of α7-containing nAChR-mediated currents by patch-clamp electrophysiology. 2) PNU-120596 can serve as a powerful tool for detection and enhancement of responsiveness of low densities of functional α7-containing nAChRs such as those present in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. 3) In the presence of PNU-120596, physiological concentrations of choline activate functional CA1 pyramidal α7-containing nAChRs and produce step-like currents that cause repetitive step-like depolarizations, occasionally triggering bursts of action potentials in CA1 pyramidal neurons. Therefore, the results of this study suggest that in the presence of PNU-120596 and possibly other positive allosteric modulators, endogenous choline may persistently activate CA1 pyramidal α7-containing nAChRs, enhance the excitability of CA1 pyramidal neurons and thus act as a potent therapeutic agent with potential neuroprotective and cognition-enhancing properties.
This review summarizes studies that attempted to determine the subtypes of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) expressed in the dopaminergic nerve terminals in the mouse. A variety of experimental approaches has been necessary to reach current knowledge of these subtypes, including in situ hybridization, agonist and antagonist binding, function measured by neurotransmitter release from synaptosomal preparations, and immunoprecipitation by selective antibodies. Early developments that facilitated this effort include the radioactive labeling of selective binding agents, such as [125I]-α-bungarotoxin and [3H]-nicotine, advances in cloning the subunits, and expression and evaluation of function of combinations of subunits in Xenopus oocytes. The discovery of epibatidine and α-conotoxin MII (α-CtxMII), and the development of nAChR subunit null mutant mice have been invaluable in determining which nAChR subunits are important for expression and function in mice, as well as allowing validation of the specificity of subunit specific antibodies. These approaches have identified five nAChR subtypes of nAChR that are expressed on dopaminergic nerve terminals. Three of these contain the α6 subunit (α4α6β2β3, α6β2β3, α6β2) and bind α-CtxMII with high affinity. One of these three subtypes (α4α6β2β3) also has the highest sensitivity to nicotine of any native nAChR that has been studied, to date. The two subtypes that do not have high affinity for α-CtxMII (α4β2, α4α5β2) are somewhat more numerous than the α6* subtypes, but do bind nicotine with high affinity. Given that our first studies detected readily measured differences in sensitivity to agonists and antagonists among these five nAChR subtypes, it seems likely that subtype selective compounds could be developed that would allow therapeutic manipulation of diverse nAChRs that have been implicated in a number of human conditions.
A long-standing relationship between nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and cognition exists. Drugs that act at nAChRs can have cognitive-enhancing effects and diseases that disrupt cognition such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia are associated with altered nAChR function. Specifically, hippocampus-dependent learning is particularly sensitive to the effects of nicotine. However, the effects of nicotine on hippocampus-dependent learning vary not only with the doses of nicotine used and whether nicotine is administered acutely, chronically, or withdrawn after chronic nicotine treatment but also vary across different hippocampus-dependent tasks such as the Morris water maze, the radial arm maze, and contextual fear conditioning. In addition, nicotine has variable effects across different types of hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP). Because different types of hippocampus-dependent learning and LTP involve different neural and molecular substrates, comparing the effects of nicotine across these paradigms can yield insights into the mechanisms that may underlie the effects of nicotine on learning and memory and aid in understanding the variable effects of nicotine on cognitive processes. This review compares and contrasts the effects of nicotine on hippocampus-dependent learning and LTP and briefly discusses how the effects of nicotine on learning could contribute to nicotine addiction.
Nicotine; Hippocampus; Learning; LTP; Addiction; Contextual learning; Fear conditioning; Nicotinic receptors; Acetylcholine
Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) can regulate the activity of many neurotransmitter pathways throughout the central nervous system and are considered important modulators of cognition and emotion. nAChRs also are the primary site of action in the brain for nicotine, the major addictive component of tobacco smoke. nAChRs consist of five membrane-spanning subunits (α and β isoforms) that can associate in various combinations to form functional nAChR ion channels. Because of a dearth of nAChR subtype-selective ligands, the precise subunit composition of the nAChRs that regulate the rewarding effects of nicotine and the development of nicotine dependence are unknown. However, the advent of mice with genetic nAChR subunit modifications has provided a useful experimental approach to assess the contribution of individual subunits in vivo. Here we review data generated from nAChR subunit knockout and genetically modified mice supporting a role for discrete nAChR subunits in nicotine reinforcement and dependence processes. Importantly, the rates of tobacco dependence are far higher in patients suffering from comorbid psychiatric illnesses compared with the general population, which may at least partly reflect disease-associated alterations in nAChR signaling. An understanding of the role of nAChRs in psychiatric disorders associated with high rates of tobacco addiction, therefore, may reveal novel insights into mechanisms of nicotine dependence. Thus, we also briefly review data generated from genetically modified mice to support a role for discrete nAChR subunits in anxiety disorders, depression, and schizophrenia.
Nicotine; nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; knockout; acetylcholine; addiction; anxiety; depression; schizophrenia
Voltammetric analyses show that low (100–500 nM) doses of nicotine regulate striatal dopamine by inhibiting release evoked by a single stimulation to a greater extent than release evoked by high frequency stimulations. This frequency-dependent inhibition is because of nicotine desensitizing heteromeric β2 subunit-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes. Surprisingly, a high dose of nicotine (2 μM; capable of interacting with additional nAChR subtypes) produced an inhibition of dopamine evoked by high frequency stimulation, an effect that was not seen with the low dose of nicotine or the β2 antagonist, dihydro-β-erythroidine hydrobromide. This inhibition was replicated by application of α7 nAChR antagonists methyllcaconitine citrate or α-bungarotoxin in conjunction with the low dose of nicotine or dihydro-β-erythroidine hydrobromide. Blocking α7 receptor function alone produced a modest increase in dopamine evoked by single pulse stimulation while not affecting dopamine evoked by high frequency stimulation. The antagonist results were mimicked using selective α7 agonists PHA 543613 and PNU 282987. The frequency dependence of the low dose nicotine inhibition therefore requires functional α7 nAChRs, and may arise from differing levels of endogenous acetylcholine evoked by the stimulation.
α7 receptor; β2 receptor; dopamine; nicotine; striatum; voltammetry