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 High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM
A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
26.04.2017 | Life Sciences
26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.04.2017 | Earth Sciences