Washington, Sept 13 (ANI): Scientists have found that an enzyme that appears to play a role in controlling the brain's response to nicotine and alcohol might be a promising target for a drug that simultaneously would treat nicotine addiction and alcohol abuse in people.
Researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Centre, affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, learned that mice genetically engineered to lack the gene for protein kinase C (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.
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. The Gallo researchers found that mice lacking PKC epsilon are deficient in these nicotinic receptors.
"This could mean that these mice might not get the same sense of reward from nicotine or alcohol," said Gallo senior associate director and investigator Robert O. Messing, MD, UCSF professor of neurology.
"The enzyme looks like it regulates the part of the reward system that involves these nicotinic receptors," he stated.
The study appeared in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of September 12, 2011. (ANI)