Differential alterations in muscarinic receptor subtypes in Alzheimer's disease: Implications for cholinergic-based therapies

Donna D. Flynn, Gaby Ferrari-DiLeo, Allan I. Levey, Deborah C. Mash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Molecular subtypes of muscarinic receptors (m1-m5) are novel targets for cholinergic replacement therapies in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, knowledge concerning the relative distribution, abundance and functional status of these receptors in human brain and AD is incomplete. Recent data from our laboratory have demonstrated a defect in the ability of the M1 receptor subtype to form a high affinity agonist-receptor-G protein complex in AD frontal cortex. This defect is manifested by decreased M1 receptor-stimulated GTPγS binding and GTPase activity and by a loss in receptor-stimulated phospholipase C activity. Normal levels of G proteins suggest that the aberrant receptor-G protein interaction may result from an altered form of the m1 receptor in AD. The combined use of radioligand binding and receptor-domain specific antibodies has permitted the re-examination of the status of muscarinic receptor subtypes in the human brain. In AD, normal levels of m1 receptor [3H]-pirenzepine binding contrasted with diminished m1 immunoreactivity, further suggesting that there is an altered form of the m1 receptor in the disease. Reduced m2 immunoreactivity was consistent with decreased numbers of m2 binding sites. Increased levels of m4 receptors were observed in both binding and immunoreactivity measurements. These findings suggest one possible explanation for the relative ineffectiveness of cholinergic replacement therapies used to date and suggest potential new directions for development of effective therapeutic strategies for AD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)869-876
Number of pages8
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Feb 10 1995


  • Alzheimer ' s disease
  • cholinergic replacement therapies
  • muscarinic receptor subtypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Pharmacology


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