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1.  Role for α6 nicotinic receptors in L-dopa-induced dyskinesias in parkinsonian mice 
Neuropharmacology  2012;63(3):450-459.
L-Dopa-induced dyskinesias are a serious side effect that develops in most Parkinson’s disease patients on dopamine replacement therapy. Few treatment options are available to manage dyskinesias; however, recent studies show that nicotine reduces these abnormal involuntary movements (AIMs) in parkinsonian animals by acting at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Identification of the nAChR subtypes that mediate this reduction in AIMs is important as it will help in the development of nAChR subtype selective drugs for their treatment. Here we investigate the role of α6β2* nAChRs, a subtype selectively present in the nigrostriatal pathway, using α6 nAChR subunit null mutant (α6(-/-)) mice. Wildtype and α6(-/-) mice were lesioned by unilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (3 μg/μl) into the medial forebrain bundle. They were then given L-dopa (3 mg/kg) plus benserazide (15 mg/kg) 2-3 wk later. L-dopa-induced AIMs developed to a similar extent in α6(-/-) and wildtype mice. However, AIMs in α6(-/-) mice declined to ~50% of that in wildtype mice with continued L-dopa treatment. Nicotine treatment also decreased AIMs by ~50% in wildtype mice, although not in α6(-/-) mice. There were no effects on parkinsonism under any experimental condition. To conclude, the similar declines in L-dopa-induced AIMs in nicotine-treated wildtype mice and in α6(-/-) mice treated with and without nicotine indicate an essential role for α6β2* nAChRs in the maintenance of L-dopa-induced AIMs. These findings suggest that α6β2* nAChR drugs have potential for reducing L-dopa-induced dyskinesias in Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3726309  PMID: 22579614
alpha6; dyskinesia; L-dopa; nicotine; 6-hydroxydopamine; Parkinson’s disease
2.  Nicotinic receptor agonists decrease L-dopa-induced dyskinesias most effectively in partially lesioned parkinsonian rats 
Neuropharmacology  2011;60(6):861-868.
L-dopa therapy for Parkinson's disease leads to dyskinesias or abnormal involuntary movement (AIMs) for which there are few treatment options. Our previous data showed that nicotine administration reduced L-dopa-induced AIMs in parkinsonian monkeys and rats. To further understand how nicotine mediates its antidyskinetic action, we investigated the effect of nicotinic receptor (nAChR) agonists in unilateral 6-OHDA-lesioned rats with varying striatal damage. We first tested the drugs in L-dopa-treated rats with a near-complete striatal dopamine lesion (>99%), the standard rodent dyskinesia model. Varenicline, an agonist that interacts with multiple nAChRs, did not significantly reduce L-dopa-induced AIMs, while 5-iodo-A-85380 (A-85380), which acts selectively at α4β2* and α6β2* subtypes, reduced AIMs by 20%. By contrast, both varenicline and A-85380 reduced L-dopa-induced AIMs by 40–50% in rats with a partial striatal dopamine lesion. Neither drug worsened the antiparkinsonian action of L-dopa. The results show that selective nicotinic agonists reduce dyskinesias, and that they are optimally effective in animals with partial striatal dopamine damage. These findings suggest that presynaptic dopamine terminal α4β2* and α6β2* nAChRs are critical for nicotine’s antidyskinetic action. The current data have important implications for the use of nicotinic receptor-directed drugs for L-dopa-induced dyskinesias, a debilitating motor complication of dopamine replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3133531  PMID: 21232546
A-85380; dyskinesia; L-dopa; nicotine; nicotinic; varenicline
3.  Pre-synaptic dopaminergic compensation after moderate nigrostriatal damage in non-human primates 
Journal of Neurochemistry  2008;105(5):1861-1872.
Despite a dramatic loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease, clinical symptoms only arise with 70–80% reduction of striatal dopamine. The mechanisms responsible for this functional compensation are currently under debate. Although initial studies showed an enhanced pre-synaptic dopaminergic function with nigrostriatal degeneration, more recent work suggests that functional compensation is not dopamine-mediated. To address this issue, we used cyclic voltammetry to directly measure endogenous dopamine release from striatal slices of control monkeys and animals with a moderate or severe MPTP-induced dopaminergic lesion. The moderately lesioned monkeys were asymptomatic, while the severely lesioned animals were parkinsonian. In monkeys with a moderate lesion, a 300% increase was obtained in endogenous striatal dopamine release. In contrast, in striatal slices from severely lesioned animals, a small % of evoked dopamine signals were similar in amplitude to control while the greater majority were undetectable. These findings suggest that pre-synaptic dopaminergic compensation develops in residual dopaminergic terminals with moderate lesioning, but that this response is lost with severe nigrostriatal damage. Such an interpretation is supported by the results of dopamine turnover studies. This enhanced pre-synaptic dopaminergic activity may be important in maintaining normal motor function during the initial stages of Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3264543  PMID: 18248617
compensation; dopamine release; MPTP; non-human primate; Parkinson’s disease; voltammetry
4.  Multiple roles for nicotine in Parkinson’s disease 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;78(7):677.
There exists a remarkable diversity of neurotransmitter compounds in the striatum, a pivotal brain region in the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder characterized by rigidity, tremor and bradykinesia. The striatal dopaminergic system, which is particularly vulnerable to neurodegeneration in this disorder, appears to be the major contributor to these motor problems. However, numerous other neurotransmitter systems in the striatum most likely also play a significant role, including the nicotinic cholinergic system. Indeed, there is an extensive anatomical overlap between dopaminergic and cholinergic neurons, and acetylcholine is well known to modulate striatal dopamine release both in vitro and in vivo. Nicotine, a drug that stimulates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), influences several functions relevant to Parkinson’s disease. Extensive studies in parkinsonian animals show that nicotine protects against nigrostriatal damage, findings that may explain the well-established decline in Parkinson’s disease incidence with tobacco use. In addition, recent work shows that nicotine reduces L-dopa-induced abnormal involuntary movements, a debilitating complication of L-dopa therapy for Parkinson’s disease. These combined observations suggest that nAChR stimulation may represent a useful treatment strategy for Parkinson’s disease for neuroprotection and symptomatic treatment. Importantly, only selective nAChR subtypes are present in the striatum including the α4β2*, α6β2* and α7 nAChR populations. Treatment with nAChR ligands directed to these subtypes may thus yield optimal therapeutic benefit for Parkinson’s disease, with a minimum of adverse side effects.
PMCID: PMC2815339  PMID: 19433069
L-Dopa-induced dyskinesias; Neuroprotection; Nicotine; Nicotinic; Nigrostriatal; Parkinson’s disease
5.  Nicotine is neuroprotective when administered before but not after nigrostriatal damage in rats and monkeys 
Journal of neurochemistry  2009;109(3):826-837.
Nicotine reduces dopaminergic deficits in parkinsonian animals when administered before nigrostriatal damage. Here we tested whether nicotine is also beneficial when given to rats and monkeys with pre-existing nigrostriatal damage. Rats were administered nicotine before and after a unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesion of the medial forebrain bundle, and the results compared to those in which rats received nicotine only after lesioning. Nicotine pretreatment attenuated behavioral deficits and lessened lesion-induced losses of the striatal dopamine transporter, and α6β2* and α4β2* nicotinic receptors (nAChRs). In contrast, nicotine administered two weeks after lesioning, when 6-OHDA-induced neurodegenerative effects are essentially complete, did not improve these same measures. Similar results were observed in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-lesioned monkeys. Nicotine did not enhance striatal markers when administered to monkeys with pre-existing nigrostriatal damage, in contrast to previous data that showed improvements when nicotine was given to monkeys before lesioning. These combined findings in two animal models suggest that nicotine is neuroprotective rather than neurorestorative against nigrostriatal damage. Receptor studies with 125I-α-conotoxinMII (α-CtxMII) and the α-CtxMII analog E11A were next done to determine whether nicotine treatment pre- or post-lesioning differentially affected expression of α6α4β2* and α6(nonα4)β2* nAChR subtypes in striatum. The observations suggest that protection against nigrostriatal damage may be linked to striatal α6α4β2* nAChRs.
PMCID: PMC2677631  PMID: 19250334
MPTP; nicotine; neuroprotection; neurorestoration; 6-OHDA; Parkinson's disease
6.  Expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and subunit messenger RNAs in the enteric nervous system of the neonatal rat 
Neuroscience  2008;158(4):1521-1529.
In the enteric nervous system (ENS) excitatory nicotinic cholinergic transmission is mediated by neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) and is critical for the regulation of gastric motility. nAChRs are ligand-gated pentameric ion channels found in the central and peripheral nervous systems. The expression of heteromeric nAChR and receptor subunit mRNAs was investigated in the neonatal rat ENS using receptor autoradiography with the radiolabeled ligand 125I-Epibatidine, and in situ hybridization with subtype specific probes for ligand binding alpha (α2, α3, α4, α5, α6) and structural beta (β2, β3, β4) subunits. The results showed strong nicotine sensitive binding of 125I-Epibatidine around the stomach, and small and large intestines. The binding was partially displaced by A85380, a nicotinic ligand which differentiates between different heteromeric nAChR subtypes, suggesting a mixed receptor population. Radioactive in situ hybridization detected expression of α3, α5, α7, β2 and β4 mRNA in the myenteric plexus of the stomach, and small and large intestines. In the submucosal plexus of the small and large intestines expression of α3, α5 and β4 was found in some ganglia. There was no signal for α4, α6 and β3 in the ENS but positive hybridization signal for α2 transcripts was seen in some areas of the small intestines. However, the signal was not associated with any ganglion cells. The results confirm the presence of heteromeric nAChRs in the ENS similar to those found in the peripheral nervous system, with the majority being composed of α3(α5)β4, and a few α3β2 nAChRs. In addition, homomeric α7 nAChRs could be present.
PMCID: PMC2669225  PMID: 19095047
gastrointestinal; nicotine; myenteric plexus; submucosal; in situ hybridization; epibatidine
7.  Acute nicotine activates c-fos and Arc mRNA expression in limbic brain areas involved in the central stress-response in rat pups during a period of hypo-responsiveness to stress 
Neuroscience  2008;157(2):349-359.
In adult rats, acute nicotine, the major psychoactive ingredient in tobacco smoke, stimulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), resulting in activation of brain areas involved in stress and anxiety-linked behavior. However, in rat pups the first two postnatal weeks are characterized by hypo-responsiveness to stress, also called the 'stress non-responsive period' (SNRP). Therefore, we wanted to address the question if acute nicotine stimulates areas involved in the stress response during SNRP? To determine neuronal activation, the expression of the immediate-early genes c-fos and Arc was studied in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), bed nucleus stria terminalis (BST) and paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVN), which are areas involved in the neuroendocrine and central stress response. Rat pups received nicotine tartrate (2 mg/kg) or saline by i.p. injection at postnatal day (P) 5, 7 and 10 and their brains were removed after 30 min. We used semi-quantitative radioactive in situ hybridization with gene specific antisense cRNA probes in coronal sections. In control pups, c-fos expression was low in most brain regions, but robust Arc hybridization was found in several areas including cingulate cortex, hippocampus and caudate. Acute nicotine resulted in significant induction of c-fos expression in the PVN and CeA at P5, P7 and P10, and in the BST at P7 and P10. Acute nicotine significantly induced expression of Arc in CeA at P5, P7 and P10, and in the BST at P10. In conclusion, acute nicotine age dependently activated different brain areas of the HPA axis during the SNRP. After P7, the response was more pronounced and included the BST, suggesting differential maturation of the HPA axis in response to nicotine.
PMCID: PMC2645901  PMID: 18848603
anxiety; SNRP; nicotinic; amygdala; hypothalamus; development
Neurotoxicology  2008;29(3):421-427.
Epidemiological studies consistently demonstrate a reduced incidence of Parkinson's disease in smokers. As an approach to evaluate whether nicotine in tobacco may be involved in this apparent protective effect, we compared the effect of mainstream 1R4F cigarette smoke solutions, which contain chemicals inhaled by active smokers, and nicotine against 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-induced toxicity in an in vitro cell culture system. For this purpose we used terminally differentiated SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells that exhibit a catecholaminergic phenotype and express nicotinic receptors. Cells were pre-incubated for 24 h in mainstream-cigarette smoke solutions (0.06, 0.2, or 0.6 cigarette puffs/ml) made from University of Kentucky 1R4F research brand cigarettes, followed by the addition of 6-OHDA for another 24–48 h. The 0.2, but not 0.06, puffs/ml dose, significantly protected against 6-OHDA-induced toxicity in SH-SY5Y cells. This dose yielded final nicotine concentrations of ~5 × 10−7 M, which is similar to plasma smoking levels. Although the 0.6 puffs/ml dose caused significant toxicity on its own, it also appeared to protect against 6-OHDA-induced damage. We next tested the effect of nicotine, as well as its metabolite cotinine. These agents protected against the toxic effects of 6-OHDA in SH-SY5Y cells at concentrations ranging from 10−7 to 10−5 M. These combined results support the idea that nicotine is one of the components in cigarette smoke that has a protective effect against neurotoxic insults. These data suggest that nicotine may be of potential therapeutic value for Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC2486261  PMID: 18359086
Neuroprotection; Cigarette smoke; Nicotine; Cotinine; 6-Hydroxydopamine; Parkinson’s disease

Results 1-8 (8)