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Ann Neurol. 1997 Aug;42(2):159-63.

Nicotinic receptor stimulation protects neurons against beta-amyloid toxicity.

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Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto University, Japan.


beta-Amyloid (A beta), a major constituent of senile plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD), is thought to contribute to the neurodegeneration. We examined the effects of nicotinic receptor agonists on A beta cytotoxicity in cultured rat cortical neurons. The number of viable neurons decreased significantly when cultures were exposed to synthetic A beta peptides (25-35). Concomitant administration of nicotine with A beta markedly reduced the number of dead cells. This nicotine-induced neuroprotection was dependent on the concentration. When hexamethonium or mecamylamine, nicotinic antagonist, was added, neuroprotective effect of nicotine was blocked, which indicates that effect of nicotine was mediated by nicotinic receptors. In addition, a selective alpha7-receptor antagonist, alpha-bungarotoxin (alpha-BTX), blocked the neuroprotective effect of nicotine. Furthermore, incubation with 3-(2,4)-dimethoxybenzylidene anabaseine (DMXB), a selective alpha7-receptor agonist, protected against A beta-induced neuronal death. These results suggest that alpha7-receptor activation plays an important role in neuroprotection against A beta cytotoxicity. This study suggests that nicotinic receptor stimulation, especially alpha7-receptor activation, may be able to protect neurons from degeneration induced by A beta and may have effects that counter the progress of AD.

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