Removing a protein from cells located in the brain's reward center blocks the anxiety-reducing and rewarding effects of nicotine, according to a new animal study in the July 27 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings may help researchers better understand how nicotine affects the brain.
Nicotine works by binding to proteins called nicotinic receptors on the surface of brain cells. In the new study, researchers led by Tresa McGranahan, Stephen Heinemann, PhD, and T. K. Booker, PhD, of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, found that removing a specific type of nicotinic receptor from brain cells that produce dopamine — a chemical released in response to reward — makes mice less likely to seek out nicotine. The mice also did not show reductions in anxiety-like behaviors normally seen after nicotine treatment. Smokers commonly report anxiety relief as a key factor in continued smoking or relapse.
"These findings show that the rewarding and anxiety-reducing properties of nicotine, thought to play a key role in the development of tobacco addiction, are related to actions at a single set of brain cells," said Paul Kenny, PhD, an expert on drug addiction at Scripps Research Institute, who was unaffiliated with the study.
Previous studies showed blocking the alpha4 nicotinic receptor within the ventral tegmental area (VTA) — a brain region important in motivation, emotion, and addiction — decreases the rewarding properties of nicotine. Because alpha4 receptors are present on several cell types in the VTA, it was unclear how nicotine produced pleasurable feelings.
To zero in on the circuit important in the brain's response to nicotine, researchers developed mice with a mutation that left them unable to produce the alpha4 receptor, but only on dopamine brain cells. Mice lacking alpha4 receptors in these cells spent less time looking to obtain nicotine compared with normal mice, suggesting the alpha4 receptors are required for the rewarding effects of nicotine. Nicotine also failed to reduce anxiety-like behaviors in the mutant mice, as it normally does in healthy mice.
"Identification of the type of nicotinic receptors necessary for two key features of nicotine addiction — reward and anxiety — may help us better understand the pathway that leads to nicotine dependence, and potential treatment for the one billion cigarette smokers worldwide," McGranahan said. Diseases from tobacco use remain a major killer throughout the world, causing more than 5 million deaths per year.
The findings could guide researchers to a better understanding of the mechanisms of tobacco addiction and assist in the development of new drugs to treat tobacco addiction and provide relief from anxiety disorders, Kenny added.
The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of more than 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. McGranahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the science of addiction can be found in the Society's Brain Briefings and Research & Discoveries publications.
Kat Snodgrass | EurekAlert!
During HIV infection, antibody can block B cells from fighting pathogens
14.08.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
First study on physical properties of giant cancer cells may inform new treatments
14.08.2018 | Brown University
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
The quality of materials often depends on the manufacturing process. In casting and welding, for example, the rate at which melts solidify and the resulting microstructure of the alloy is important. With metallic foams as well, it depends on exactly how the foaming process takes place. To understand these processes fully requires fast sensing capability. The fastest 3D tomographic images to date have now been achieved at the BESSY II X-ray source operated by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin.
Dr. Francisco Garcia-Moreno and his team have designed a turntable that rotates ultra-stably about its axis at a constant rotational speed. This really depends...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
14.08.2018 | Information Technology
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences
14.08.2018 | Life Sciences