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
Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital
Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Awards Funding
26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine