Varenicline is a prescription medication used to treat smoking addiction. This medication is the first approved nicotinic receptor partial agonist. Specifically, varenicline is a partial agonist of the alpha4/beta2 subtype of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. In addition it acts on alpha3/beta4 and weakly on alpha3beta2 and alpha6-containing receptors. A full agonism was displayed on alpha7-receptors.
Humans and other mammals
For use as an aid in smoking cessation.
Varenicline is a partial nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonist, designed to partially activate this system while displacing nicotine at its sites of action in the brain.
Mechanism of action
Varenicline is an alpha-4 beta-2 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist. The drug shows high selectiviyty for this receptor subclass, relative to other nicotinic receptors (>500-fold alpha-3 beta-4, >3500-fold alpha-7, >20,000-fold alpha-1 beta gamma delta) or non-nicotinic receptors and transporters (>2000-fold). The drug competitively inhibits the ability of nicotine to bind to and activate the alpha-4 beta-2 receptor. The drug exerts mild agonistic activity at this site, though at a level much lower than nicotine; it is presumed that this activation eases withdrawal symptoms.