A novel nicotinic mechanism underlies β-amyloid-induced neurotoxicity

Qiang Liu, Xitao Xie, Sharareh Emadi, Michael Sierks, Jie Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Abstract Loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) correlates with cognitive deficits in Alzheimer disease (AD). Our recent evidence suggests that chronic exposure to Aβ up-regulated neuronal α7-nAChRs and increased neuronal excitability in cultured hippocampal neurons. However, the impact of the up-regulated α7-nAChRs on Aβ-induced neurotoxicity remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the role of α7-nAChRs in the mediation of Aβ-induced neurotoxicity. The effects of Aβ exposure on α7-nAChRs and cytotoxicity were examined using whole-cell patch clamp recordings, atomic force microscope (AFM) imaging, immunoprecipitation, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release assay in primary cultured hippocampal neurons as well as differentiated human neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) cells with cholinergic characteristics. We found that α7-nAChRs are necessary for Aβ-induced neurotoxicity in hippocampal neurons because chronic Aβ significantly increased LDH level in hippocampal cultures, which was prevented by either α7-nAChR antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA) or by α7 subunit gene deletion (cultures prepared from nAChR α7 subunit KO mice), whereas β2-containing nAChR antagonist (dihydro-β-erythroidine, DhβE) or the genetic deletion of nAChR β2 subunit (cultures prepared from β2 KO mice) failed to prevent Aβ-induced toxicity. In SH-SY5Y cells, larger aggregates of Aβ preferentially up-regulated α7-nAChR expression and function accompanied by a significant decrease in cell viability. Co-treatment MLA, but not mecamylamine (MEC), prevented Aβ exposure-induced neurotoxicity. Our results suggest a detrimental role of upregulated α7-nAChRs in the mediation of Aβ-induced neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5834
Pages (from-to)457-463
Number of pages7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • AD, Alzheimer disease
  • Aβ, amyloid-β
  • BFCN, basal forebrain cholinergic neurons
  • Patch clamp
  • α7-nAChRs, α7-containing nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology

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