The two hallmark lesions of Alzheimer's disease (AD) are extracellular amyloid plaques, mainly formed by a small peptide called amyloid-β (Aβ), and neurofibrillary tangles, which are intracellular inclusions formed by aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. One of the major neurochemical features of AD is the marked reduction of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in disease-relevant brain regions such as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. This loss is further compounded by the loss of cholinergic cells, which contributes to the cognitive dysfunction. This observation has had a major impact on therapeutic treatments, as efforts to restore cholinergic function such as the administration of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors have been, until recently, the major treatment options available for AD. Understanding the relationship of these hallmark lesions with the plethora of other changes that occur in the AD brain has proven to be a difficult challenge to resolve. The utilization of transgenic mouse models, that recapitulate one or more neuropathological and neurochemical features of the AD brain is providing some inroads, as they offer a means to gain mechanistic insights into the disease process in an in vivo setting. In this review, we consider the role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in transgenic models and in AD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)