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Mol Pharmacol. 2006 Oct;70(4):1454-60. Epub 2006 Jul 20.

Sazetidine-A, a novel ligand that desensitizes alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors without activating them.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20057, USA.


Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are ligand-gated ion channels found throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. They are crucial to normal physiology and have been clearly implicated in nicotine addiction. In addition, they are possible therapeutic targets in a wide range of pathological conditions, including cognitive disorders, Parkinson's disease, and neuropathic pain. Nicotinic ligands are usually classified as agonists (or partial agonists), competitive antagonists, or noncompetitive antagonists. Sazetidine-A is a new nicotinic ligand that shows a different pharmacological profile from any of these known classes of ligands. Sazetidine-A competes with very high binding affinity (Ki approximately 0.5 nM) and selectivity for the alpha4beta2 nAChR subtype (Ki ratio alpha3beta4/alpha4beta2 approximately 24,000). Despite its high affinity, sazetidine-A neither activates nAChR channel function nor prevents channel activation when it is applied simultaneously with nicotine. However, when it is pre-incubated for 10 min with the receptors, it potently blocks nicotine-stimulated alpha4beta2 nAChR function (IC50 approximately 30 nM). The action of sazetidine-A may be explained by its very low affinity for the resting conformation of the alpha4beta2 nAChRs, and its very high affinity for the desensitized state of the receptor. We propose that sazetidine-A is a "silent desensitizer" of nAChRs, meaning that it desensitizes the receptor without first activating it. Furthermore, comparison of the effects of sazetidine-A and nicotine at alpha4beta2 nAChRs suggests that the predominant effects of nicotine and other nicotinic agonists are related to desensitization of the receptors and that sazetidine-A potently mimics these effects.

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