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

September 12, 2011, University of California, San Francisco

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

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

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.