The Human-Restricted Isoform of the α7 nAChR, CHRFAM7A: A Double-Edged Sword in Neurological and Inflammatory Disorders

Di Lascio S, Fornasari D, Benfante R.
The Human-Restricted Isoform of the α7 nAChR, CHRFAM7A: A Double-Edged Sword in Neurological and Inflammatory Disorders.
Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Mar 22;23(7):3463. doi: 10.3390/ijms23073463. PMID: 35408823; PMCID: PMC8998457.


CHRFAM7A is a relatively recent and exclusively human gene arising from the partial duplication of exons 5 to 10 of the α7 neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit (α7 nAChR) encoding gene, CHRNA7. CHRNA7 is related to several disorders that involve cognitive deficits, including neuropsychiatric, neurodegenerative, and inflammatory disorders. In extra-neuronal tissues, α7nAChR plays an important role in proliferation, differentiation, migration, adhesion, cell contact, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and tumor progression, as well as in the modulation of the inflammatory response through the "cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway". CHRFAM7A translates the dupα7 protein in a multitude of cell lines and heterologous systems, while maintaining processing and trafficking that are very similar to the full-length form. It does not form functional ion channel receptors alone. In the presence of CHRNA7 gene products, dupα7 can assemble and form heteromeric receptors that, in order to be functional, should include at least two α7 subunits to form the agonist binding site. When incorporated into the receptor, in vitro and in vivo data showed that dupα7 negatively modulated α7 activity, probably due to a reduction in the number of ACh binding sites. Very recent data in the literature report that the presence of the duplicated gene may be responsible for the translational gap in several human diseases. Here, we will review the studies that have been conducted on CHRFAM7A in different pathologies, with the intent of providing evidence regarding when and how the expression of this duplicated gene may be beneficial or detrimental in the pathogenesis, and eventually in the therapeutic response, to CHRNA7-related neurological and non-neurological diseases.

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