Sue Wonnacott

Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society , Prof

  • 4 SOUTH 0.44

Accepting Doctoral Students

1994 …2020

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) are pentameric ligand-gated cation channels that as so-called because they are activated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and the tobacco alkaloid nicotine. A gene family generates 16 subunits in mammals that combine to form a diversity of subtypes of nAChR, finely tuned for different cellular and physiological functions. The distinct subtypes that are expressed in the brain have elicited interest in understanding their roles in normal brain function and their contributions to diseases, including addiction, Alzheimers’s and Parkinson’s diseases and schizophrenia, where they are potential therapeutic targets. Although much remains to be discovered nAChRs are important modulators of synaptic activity, through the presynaptic regulation of neurotransmitter release and postsynaptic modulation of local calcium concentrations, for example. Thus nAChRs, notably the alpha7 subtype, can impact on synaptic mechanisms of information processing and memory storage such as long term potentiation.

We study the molecular and cellular mechanisms governed by nAChRs in neuronal systems, often in the context of a behavioural paradigm (such as conditioned place preference as a model of drug-paired learning). This interdisciplinary research is highly collaborative, currently with Dr Chris Bailey (Dept of Pharmacy and Pharmacology) and Prof David Heal (RenaSci, Nottingham). We also have a long-standing interest in the discovery and characterisation of novel ligands for nAChRs, in collaboration with Prof Tim Gallagher (University of Bristol).

From 2010-2017 Prof Wonnacott was Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Science.

Education/Academic qualification

Biochemistry, Doctor of Philosophy, King's College London


Award Date: 1 Nov 1975

Biochemistry, Bachelor of Science, University College London


Award Date: 1 Jul 1971

Neurochemistry, Master of Science, King's College London


External positions

Parkinson's UK College of Experts, Parkinson's Disease Society


Advanced Grant Panel, European Research Council


Studentship Panel, NC3Rs


Reader for L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowships.


Senior Editor, British Journal of Pharmacology



  • neuroscience
  • nicotine
  • addiction
  • receptors
  • brain

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Research Output

Nicotinic Receptors

Wonnacott, S., 12 May 2020, Encyclopedia of Molecular Pharmacology. Offermann, S. & Rosenthal, W. (eds.). Springer, 7 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

A General Mechanism for Signal Propagation in the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Family

Oliveira, A. S. F., Edsall, C. J., Woods, C. J., Bates, P., Nunez, G. V., Wonnacott, S., Bermudez, I., Ciccotti, G., Gallagher, T., Sessions, R. B. & Mulholland, A. J., 26 Dec 2019, In : Journal of the American Chemical Society. 141, 51, p. 19953-19958 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Identification of the Initial Steps in Signal Transduction in the α4β2 Nicotinic Receptor: Insights from Equilibrium and Nonequilibrium Simulations

Oliviera, S., Shoemark, D. K., Rego Campello, H., Wonnacott, S., Gallagher, T., Sessions, R. B. & Mulholland, A. J., 2 Jul 2019, In : Structure. 27, 7, p. 1171-1183.e3 17 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
1 Citation (Scopus)
Open Access
  • 5 Citations (Scopus)
    21 Downloads (Pure)


    Effects of nicotinic ligands on the acute and chronic actions of Amyloid-β in vitro

    Author: Innocent, N., 1 Sep 2009

    Supervisor: Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Flavonoids as regulators of amyloid precursor protein processing

    Author: Cox, C., 14 May 2014

    Supervisor: Williams, R. (Supervisor) & Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Motivational memory: role of nicotinic receptors in synaptic plasticity

    Author: Palandri, J., 1 May 2019

    Supervisor: Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor), Bailey, C. (Supervisor) & Heal, D. (External person) (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor modulation of noradrenaline release in the rodent brain

    Author: Kennett, A., 30 Sep 2011

    Supervisor: Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


    Sex differences in the effects of kappa opioid receptors agonists and acute stress on the mouse brain

    Author: Ma, Q., 15 Jan 2020

    Supervisor: Bailey, C. (Supervisor), Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor) & Bailey, S. (Supervisor)

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD