Year of Publication

2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Pharmacy

Department

Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

James R. Pauly, Ph.D.

Abstract

The α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) is involved in learning and memory, synaptic plasticity, neuroprotection, inflammation, and presynaptic regulation of neurotransmitter release. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by diminished cognitive abilities, memory loss, and neuropsychiatric disturbances, is associated with a loss of nAChRs. Similarly, traumatic brain injury (TBI) may result in long term neurobehavioral changes exemplified by cognitive dysfunction. Deficits in α7 nAChR expression have previously been shown in experimental TBI and may be related to cognitive impairment experienced in patients following TBI.

The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate changes in α7 nAChR expression in models of neurodegeneration and determine if allosteric modulation of the nAChR facilitates functional recovery following experimental TBI through changes in nAChRs. Experimental models employed include a transgenic mouse model of AD that overexpresses the amyloid precursor protein (APPswe mice) and the controlled cortical impact injury model of TBI in rats. Quantitative receptor autoradiography using α-[125I]-bungarotoxin and [125I]-epibatidine and in situ hybridization were used to investigate changes in nAChR density and mRNA expression, respectively.

In the first study, the effects of aging and β-amyloid on α7 nAChR expression were evaluated in APPswe mice. Hippocampal α7 nAChR density was significantly upregulated in APPswe mice compared to wild-type mice. It is postulated that elevated Aβ levels bind to the α7 nAChR resulting in upregulation. In a second study, galantamine, a medication used in the treatment of AD, was administered subchronically following experimental TBI to determine if treatment could facilitate cognitive recovery and affect nAChR expression. Interestingly, the results indicate TBI interferes with agonist mediated upregulation of nAChRs, and galantamine did not improve function in a behavioral task of learning a memory. In a third study, the regulation of TBI related deficits in α7 nAChRs was examined 48 hours following injury. α7 nAChR deficits occurred with a reduction in α7 mRNA in several hippocampal regions and non-α7 nAChR deficits occurred with a reduction in α4 mRNA in the metathalamus. The results of these studies suggest AD and TBI may involve complex but parallel processes contributing to the regulation of α7 nAChRs.

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