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Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2000;14 Suppl 1:S82-94.

Presynaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors as a functional target of nefiracetam in inducing a long-lasting facilitation of hippocampal neurotransmission.

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Department of Physiology, Kobe University School of Medicine, Japan.


Nefiracetam (1-10 microM), a nootropic (or cognition-enhancing) agent, persistently potentiated currents through Torpedo acetylcholine (ACh) receptors expressed in Xenopus oocytes as a result of interacting with a protein kinase C pathway and the ensuing protein kinase C phosphorylation of the receptors. A similar effect was found in neuronal nicotinic ACh receptors (alpha4beta2 and alpha7). In contrast, the other nootropic agents such as piracetam and aniracetam had no potentiating action on the receptors. A sustained enhancement in the activity of nicotinic ACh receptors induced by nefiracetam caused a marked increase in the glutamate release, leading to a long-term potentiation-like facilitation of hippocampal synaptic transmissions. One of the consistent neuropathologic features of the Alzheimer brain is a loss of nicotinic ACh receptors. This fact, together with the results of our study, raises the possibility that the loss of nicotinic ACh receptors may be a key factor in the decline of cognitive function observed in Alzheimer disease and that agents targeting neuronal nicotinic ACh receptors like nefiracetam could, therefore, be of great therapeutic importance.

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