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Neuropharmacology. 2010 May;58(6):921-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2009.12.005. Epub 2009 Dec 22.

Agonist-induced restoration of hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive improvement in a model of cholinergic denervation.

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Department of Neuroscience, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL 32246, USA.


Loss of basal forebrain cholinergic innervation of the hippocampus and severe neuronal loss within the hippocampal CA1 region are early hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, and are strongly correlated with cognitive status. Various therapeutic approaches involve attempts to enhance neurotransmission or to provide some level of neuroprotection for remaining cells. An alternative approach may involve the generation of new cells to replace those lost in AD. Indeed, a simple shift in the balance between cell generation and cell loss may slow disease progression and possibly even reverse existing cognitive deficits. One potential neurogenic regulator might be acetylcholine, itself, which has been shown to play a critical role in hippocampal development. Here, we report the effects of various cholinergic compounds on indices of hippocampal neurogenesis, demonstrating a significant induction following pharmacological activation of muscarinic M1 receptors, located on hippocampal progenitors in the adult brain. This is the first report that a small-molecule agonist may induce neurogenesis in the hippocampal CA1 region. Furthermore, such treatment reversed deficits in markers of neurogenesis and spatial working memory triggered by cholinergic denervation in a rodent model. This study suggests the use of small molecule, receptor agonists may represent a novel means to trigger the restoration of specific neuronal populations lost to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

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