Nicotine stops your cells from talking to one another

April 6th, 2009 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 6 (IANS) Nicotine may interfere with cellular communication in your body, according to a new study.
Researchers have found 55 proteins that interact with the alpha-7 nicotinic receptor, so called because nicotine binds to them when it is introduced into the body. 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,” said study co-author Edward Hawrot, professor of molecular science, molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown University.

“And in various, specific regions of the brain this same alpha-7 receptor may interact with different proteins inside neurons to do different things,” he added.

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, said a Brown University release.

The study could 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 Hawrot.

He and his team of 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.

This advance could lead to the development of new treatments to combat smoking addiction. It could also have future implications for schizophrenia, Hawrot said.

The research was published in the April 3 edition of the Journal of Proteome Research.

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