Effect of varenicline on behavioral deficits in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease induced by unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine lesion of substantia nigra

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Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Varenicline tartrate is a partial agonist at α4β2 and full agonist at α7 neuronal nAChR subunits. A unilateral lesion of the substantia nigra (SN) has been used as a reliable model of PD. This study aimed to investigate the effect of varenicline on locomotor and nonlocomotor behavioral deficits induced by a unilateral lesion of the SN induced by 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) (8 µg/4 µl). Varenicline (1 mg/kg) was administered to the lesioned rats daily for 2 weeks, which commenced 3 weeks after 6-OHDA administration. The results showed that varenicline improved motor deficits induced by 6-OHDA. It improved locomotor and nonlocomotor activities such as forelimb use, rotarod performance, and forelimb asymmetry. Varenicline did not change rearing or vibrissae-elicited forelimb placing but did increase apomorphine-induced rotation. In conclusion, the present results suggest that drugs with specific partial/full agonistic activity on nAChR subunits could be of value in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders such as PD.

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