Cyclic nucleotides play fundamental roles in the central nervous system (CNS) under both physiological and pathological conditions. The impact of cAMP and cGMP signaling on neuronal and glial cell functions has been thoroughly characterized. Most of their effects have been related to cyclic nucleotide-dependent protein kinase activity. However, cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels, first described as key mediators of sensory transduction in retinal and olfactory receptors, have been receiving increasing attention as possible targets of cyclic nucleotides in the CNS. In the last 15 years, consistent evidence has emerged for their expression in neurons and astrocytes of the rodent brain. Far less is known, however, about the functional role of CNG channels in these cells, although several of their features, such as Ca2+ permeability and prolonged activation in the presence of cyclic nucleotides, make them ideal candidates for mediators of physiological functions in the CNS. Here, we review literature suggesting the involvement of CNG channels in a number of CNS cellular functions (e.g., regulation of membrane potential, neuronal excitability, and neurotransmitter release) as well as in more complex phenomena, like brain plasticity, adult neurogenesis, and pain sensitivity. The emerging picture is that functional and dysfunctional cyclic nucleotide signaling in the CNS has to be reconsidered including CNG channels among possible targets. However, concerted efforts and multidisciplinary approaches are still needed to get more in-depth knowledge in this field.
- cyclic nucleotides
- ion channels