Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors: Diversity and physiological importance for neurodegenerative disorders and development of organophosphate antidotes


  • Antonio Zandona Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health
  • Maja Katalinić Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health



The communication between the nervous and other systems in the organism is carried out by the transmission of nerve impulses. Diverse neurotransmitters are released into the synaptic cleft and bind to the specific receptors at the neighbouring cell to transmit the signal further. One of such receptors are nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR), integrated membrane proteins (ligand-gated ion channels) activated by the binding of a neurotransmitter acetylcholine. nAChR's main characteristic is their diversity, as they consist of five of the same or mutually different subunits, which contribute to the specific receptors properties and biological activity. During the assembly of a pentameric protein structure, various combinations of subunits are linked together. After the discovery of nAChR’s involvement in various diseases, they became an important therapeutic target, for example in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) and in the treatment of organophosphorus compound poisoning. This paper presents an overview of current knowledge on nicotinic receptors and an accompanying discussion on diseases, poisonings, potential drugs and treatments is given.