Enzyme might be target for treating smoking, alcoholism at same time

September 12, 2011

An enzyme that appears to play a role in controlling the brain's response to nicotine and alcohol in mice might be a promising target for a drug that simultaneously would treat nicotine addiction and alcohol abuse in people, according to a study by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

Over the course of four weeks, mice genetically engineered to lack the gene for (PKC) epsilon consumed less of a nicotine-containing water solution than normal mice, and were less likely to return to a chamber in which they had been given nicotine.

In contrast, normal mice steadily increased their consumption of nicotine solution while the mice lacking PKC epsilon did not.

The study was conducted by Gallo senior associate director and investigator Robert O. Messing, MD, UCSF professor of neurology, and Gallo researcher Anna M. Lee, PhD.

In normal mice, as in humans, nicotine binds to a certain class of nicotinic receptors located on dopamine neurons, which causes dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine creates a feeling of enjoyment, and thus prompts a sense of reward. Lee and Messing found that mice lacking PKC epsilon are deficient in these nicotinic receptors.

The study appears in the online Early Edition of the for the week of September 12, 2011.

The finding complements earlier research in which Messing found that mice genetically engineered to lack the PKC epsilon enzyme drank less alcohol than normal mice and were disinclined to return to a chamber in which they had been given alcohol.

"This could mean that these mice might not get the same sense of reward from nicotine or alcohol," said Messing. "The enzyme looks like it regulates the part of the reward system that involves these ." The reward system is a complex of areas in the brain that affect craving for nicotine, alcohol and other addictive substances.

The next step in the research, said Messing, would be to develop compounds that inhibit epsilon. The ultimate goal, he said, would be medications that could be used "to take the edge off of addiction by helping people get over some of their reward craving."

Explore further: Eliminating protein in specific brain cells blocks nicotine reward

More information: “Protein kinase C epsilon modulates nicotine consumption and dopamine reward signals in the nucleus accumbens,” by Anna M. Lee and Robert O. Messing, PNAS.

Related Stories

Eliminating protein in specific brain cells blocks nicotine reward

July 26, 2011
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 ...

Recommended for you

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.