The neuronal nicotinic receptor has gained considerable recognition as a target, not just for combating drug addiction but also for treating a number of illnesses ranging from neurodegenerative diseases to psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. This recognition has led to a burgeoning field examining the receptor at all levels. A class of nicotinic receptors that contains the α7 gene product, apparently as a homomer, illustrates this multidisciplinary approach. Here, we review recent progress in our understanding of this class of receptors based on data from molecular, structural, physiological and patho-physiological studies. These studies have set the stage for rational drug design to combat disorders of the central nervous system. The studies also exemplify the cautious approach needed in developing CNS therapies and the importance of physiology in tempering drug design.
Keywords: Nicotinic Receptors, Drug Design, neurodegenerative diseases, psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, α7 gene product, central nervous system
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