Effects of the nicotinic α7 receptor partial agonist GTS-21 on NMDA-glutamatergic receptor related deficits in sensorimotor gating and recognition memory in rats

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Rationale: Disturbances in information processing and cognitive function are key features of schizophrenia. Nicotinic α7 acetylcholine receptors (α7-nAChR) are involved in sensory gating and cognition, thereby representing a viable therapeutic strategy. Objectives and methods: We investigated the effects of GTS-21, an α7-nAChR partial agonist, on prepulse inhibition (PPI) of acoustic startle in two pharmacologic impairment models in Wistar male rats: NMDA-glutamate receptor antagonism by MK-801 and dopamine receptor agonism by apomorphine. The cognitive effects of GTS-21 were assessed using the object recognition task (ORT) at short (3 h) and long (48 h) delays in Sprague-Dawley male rats. Pharmacological specificity was assessed by methyllycaconitine (MLA) coadministration with GTS-21. Results: In the PPI task, GTS-21 (1-10 mg/kg) alone did not alter the PPI response or startle amplitude. Coadministration of GTS-21 with MK-801 (0.1 mg/kg) or apomorphine (0.5 mg/kg) abolished the pharmacologic-induced PPI impairment as did the antipsychotics clozapine (5.0 mg/kg) and haloperidol (0.3 mg/kg). MK-801 alone increased startle amplitude which was blocked by GTS-21. In the ORT, GTS-21 (0.1-10 mg/kg) reversed the MK-801 (0.08 mg/kg)-induced memory deficit at the 3 h delay and enhanced memory at the 48 h delay, an effect abolished by MLA (0.313-5 mg/kg). Conclusions: The results extend our preclinical pharmacological understanding of GTS-21 to include the ability of GTS-21 to modulate NMDA-glutamate receptor function, in vivo. Given the role of NMDA-glutamate receptor involvement in schizophrenia, α7-nAChR agonists may represent a novel treatment strategy for the pathophysiological deficits of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3695-3706
Number of pages12
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014



  • Cognition
  • NMDA-glutamate function
  • Nicotinic α7 receptor
  • Object recognition memory
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sensorimotor gating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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