April 6, 2009

Nicotine may be more than addictive

Nicotine isn't just addictive, it may also interfere with dozens of cellular interactions in the body, U.S. researchers suggest.

Brown University researchers say the data could help scientists develop better treatments for various diseases.

It opens several new lines of investigation, lead author Edward Hawrot says in a statement.

Hawrot and a team that included graduate students William Brucker and Joao Paulo looked specifically at the alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in mouse brain tissue. A very similar receptor exists in humans, the researchers say.

The alpha-7 receptor is the most enigmatic of the so-called nicotinic receptors, so named because nicotine binds to them when it is introduced into the body.

Most receptors are on the surface of cells and are sensitive to small signaling molecules such as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is the naturally occurring signal the body uses to activate alpha-7 receptors.

The study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research, discovered 55 proteins found to interact with the alpha-7 nicotinic receptor. Scientists had not previously known of those connections.