Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) belong to a super-family of Cysloop
ligand-gated ion channels that respond to endogenous acetylcholine (ACh) or other cholinergic
ligands. These receptors are also the targets of drugs such as nicotine (the main addictive agent
delivered by cigarette smoke) and are involved in a variety of physiological and pathophysiological
processes. Numerous studies have shown that the expression and/or function of nAChRs is compromised
in many neurological and psychiatric diseases.
Furthermore, recent studies have shown that neuronal nAChRs are found in a large number of nonneuronal
cell types including endothelial cells, glia, immune cells, lung epithelia and cancer cells
where they regulate cell differentiation, proliferation and inflammatory responses.
The aim of this review is to describe the most recent findings concerning the structure and function
of native nAChRs inside and outside the nervous system.