Cytisine, a natural bioactive compound that is mainly isolated from plants of the Leguminosae family (especially the seeds of Laburnum anagyroides), has been marketed in central and eastern Europe as an aid in the clinical management of smoking cessation for more than 50 years. Its main targets are neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), and pre-clinical studies have shown that its interactions with various nAChR subtypes located in different areas of the central and peripheral nervous systems are neuroprotective, have a wide range of biological effects on nicotine and alcohol addiction, regulate mood, food intake and motor activity, and influence the autonomic and cardiovascular systems. Its relatively rigid conformation makes it an attractive template for research of new derivatives. Recent studies of structurally modified cytisine have led to the development of new compounds and for some of them the biological activities are mediated by still unidentified targets other than nAChRs, whose mechanisms of action are still being investigated. The aim of this review is to describe and discuss: 1) the most recent pre-clinical results obtained with cytisine in the fields of neurological and non-neurological diseases; 2) the effects and possible mechanisms of action of the most recent cytisine derivatives; and 3) the main areas warranting further research.
Cytisine; Cytisine derivatives; Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; Reward; Smoking cessation; Varenicline.