Conversely, the data could also help scientists develop better treatments for various diseases. Pharmaceutical companies rely on basic research to identify new cellular interactions that can, in turn, serve as targets for potential new drugs.
"It opens several new lines of investigation," said lead author Edward Hawrot, professor of molecular science, molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown University.
Hawrot's research is highlighted in a paper published April 3 in the Journal of Proteome Research. He and a team that included graduate students William Brucker and Joao Paulo set out to provide a more basic understanding of how nicotine affects the process of cell communication through the mammalian nervous system.
The Brown University researchers looked specifically at the alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in mouse brain tissue. A very similar receptor exists in humans. 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.
Their discovery: 55 proteins were found to interact with the alpha-7 nicotinic receptor. Scientists had not previously known of those connections.
"This is called a "nicotinic" receptor and we think of it as interacting with nicotine, but it likely has multiple functions in the brain," Hawrot said. "And in various, specific regions of the brain this same alpha-7 receptor may interact with different proteins inside neurons to do different things."
One in particular — the G alpha protein — was among the most unexpected proteins to be identified in the study, as it is usually associated with a completely different class of receptors (the eponymous G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs).
This finding is significant because G alpha proteins are involved in many different biochemical and signaling processes throughout the brain and the rest of the body. body.
An example of the importance of G alpha proteins: 40 percent of all currently used therapeutic drugs target a member of the large GPCR family of receptors.
The new finding suggests that the alpha-7 receptors have a much broader role in the body than previously suspected and that the newly identified associated proteins could also be affected when nicotine binds to the alpha-7 receptor.
Nicotine may affect bodily processes — and perhaps the actions of other commonly used drugs — more broadly than was previously thought.
This advance could lead to the development of new treatments to combat smoking addiction. At the same time, the finding could also have future implications for diseases such as schizophrenia, Hawrot said.
Recent genetic studies have suggested that some cases of schizophrenia are associated with deletions where a block of genes, including the gene for the alpha-7 receptor, is missing. Hawrot said the connection, while not conclusive, offers hope for new strategies in the development of treatments for those suffering from the disorder.
To conduct their study, Hawrot's lab looked at mice genetically engineered by other researchers to lack the alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. Those mice were compared with normal mice, so the difference in receptor-associated proteins could be highlighted.
Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Rhode Island Research Alliance helped support the study.
Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.
Mark Hollmer | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Biotechnology > G alpha protein > GPCR > Physiology > acetylcholine > alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor > cellular interactions > eponymous G-protein > mammalian nervous system > molecular pharmacology > molecular science > mouse brain tissue > nicotine > nicotinic > nicotinic acetylcholine
New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes
14.08.2017 | University of British Columbia
New type of blood cells work as indicators of autoimmunity
14.08.2017 | Instituto de Medicina Molecular
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Information Technology