Posts tagged nicotine
Posts tagged nicotine
In researching neural pathways, it helps to establish an analogous relationship between a region of the human brain and the brains of more-easily studied animal species. New work from a team led by Carnegie’s Marnie Halpern hones in on one particular region of the zebrafish brain that could help us understand the circuitry underlying nicotine addiction. It is published the week of December 9 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The mammalian habenular nuclei, in a little-understood and difficult-to-access part of the brain, are involved in regulating both dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters involved in motor control, mood, learning, and addiction. But unlike the mammalian habenulae, the habenular nuclei of fish are located dorsally, making them easy for scientists to access and study. However, some outstanding questions remained about the properties of the zebrafish habenulae, creating a roadblock for truly linking these structures as analogous in fish and humans. In particular, it was unresolved whether zebrafish habenular neurons produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is enriched in this region of the mammalian brain and activates the same receptors to which nicotine is known to bind.
The new work by lead author Elim Hong and colleagues confirms that the pathway between the habenula and another part of the brain called the midbrain interpenduncular nucleus utilizes acetylcholine in zebrafish, as it does in humans. The work also shows that there is a left-right difference in this part of the fish brain.
The purpose of this asymmetry is unknown, but, as demonstrated by electrophysiological recordings with collaborator Jean-Marie Mangin of the University of Pierre and Marie Curie, it results in differences in neural activity between the brain hemispheres. Other research in Halpern’s lab indicates that such left-right differences could influence behavior. Hong performed these experiments through a European Molecular Biology Organization Short-Term Fellowship while hosted in the laboratory of Claire Wyart in Paris, France.
The team further showed that this acetylcholine pathway in zebrafish responds in a similar way to nicotine as does the analagous pathway in the mammalian brain. This makes the zebrafish a good model for studying the brain chemistry of nicotine addiction.
“Our work demonstrates broader uses for zebrafish in studying the function of the habenula and addresses a major weakness in the field, which was the poor characterization of neurotransmitter identity in this area,” said Hong. “Going forward, these results will help us study how brain circuitry influences nicotine addiction.”
Nicotine withdrawal might take over your body, but it doesn’t take over your brain. The symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are driven by a very specific group of neurons within a very specific brain region, according to a report in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, on November 14. Although caution is warranted, the researchers say, the findings in mice suggest that therapies directed at this group of neurons might one day help people quit smoking.
"We were surprised to find that one population of neurons within a single brain region could actually control physical nicotine withdrawal behaviors," says Andrew Tapper of the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Tapper and his colleagues first obtained mice addicted to nicotine by delivering the drug to mice in their water for a period of 6 weeks. Then they took the nicotine away. The mice started scratching and shaking in the way a dog does when it is wet. Close examination of the animals’ brains revealed abnormally increased activity in neurons within a single region known as the interpeduncular nucleus.
When the researchers artificially activated those neurons with light, animals showed behaviors that looked like nicotine withdrawal, whether they had been exposed to the drug or not. The reverse was also true: treatments that lowered activity in those neurons alleviated nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
That the interpeduncular nucleus might play such a role in withdrawal from nicotine makes sense because the region receives connections from other areas of the brain involved in nicotine use and response, as well as feelings of anxiety. The interpeduncular nucleus is also densely packed with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors that are the molecular targets of nicotine.
It is much less clear whether the findings related to nicotine will be relevant to other forms of addiction, but there are some hints that they may.
"Smoking is highly prevalent in people with other substance-use disorders, suggesting a potential interaction between nicotine and other drugs of abuse," Tapper says. "In addition, naturally occurring mutations in genes encoding the nicotinic receptor subunits that are found in the interpeduncular nucleus have been associated with drug and alcohol dependence."
For several years, Henry Lester, Bren Professor of Biology at Caltech, and his colleagues have worked to understand nicotine addiction by repeatedly exposing nerve cells to the drug and studying the effects. At first glance, it’s a simple story: nicotine binds to, and activates, specific nicotine receptors on the surface of nerve cells within a few seconds of being inhaled. But nicotine addiction develops over weeks or months; and so the Caltech team wanted to know what changes in the nerve cell during that time, hidden from view.
The story that developed is that nicotine infiltrates deep into the cell, entering a protein-making structure called the endoplasmic reticulum and increasing its output of the same nicotine receptors. These receptors then travel to the cell’s surface. In other words, nicotine acts “inside out,” directing actions that ultimately fuel and support the body’s addiction to nicotine.
"That nicotine works ‘inside out’ was a surprise a few years ago," says Lester. "We originally thought that nicotine acted only from the outside in, and that a cascade of effects trickled down to the endoplasmic reticulum and the cell’s nucleus, slowly changing their function."
In a new research review paper, published in Biological Psychiatry, Lester—along with senior research fellow Julie M. Miwa and postdoctoral scholar Rahul Srinivasan—proposes that psychiatric medications may work in the same “inside-out” fashion—and that this process explains how it takes weeks rather than hours or days for patients to feel the full effect of such drugs.
"We’ve known what happens within minutes and hours after a person takes Prozac, for example," explains Lester. "The drug binds to serotonin uptake proteins on the cell surface, and prevents the neurotransmitter serotonin from being reabsorbed by the cell. That’s why we call Prozac a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI." While the new hypothesis preserves that idea, it also presents several arguments for the idea that the drugs also enter into the bodies of the nerve cells themselves.
Preclinical data suggests inactivation of a specific sub-class of nicotinic receptors may be an effective strategy to help smokers quit without feeling anxious, according to Virginia Commonwealth University researchers.
These findings could one day point researchers to the development of novel therapies to help smokers quit without feeling anxious.
Smokers use cigarettes for many reasons, but many report that they smoke to relieve anxiety, despite the health danger of cigarette smoking. Researchers are now working to understand the underlying neurochemical pathways that support smoking behavior.
In a study, published online this week in PLoS ONE, researchers observed that low doses of nicotine and a nicotinic receptor blocker had similar effects to reduce anxiety-like behavior in an animal model. They found that inactivation of beta2 subunit, a specific sub-class of nicotinic receptors that bind nicotine, appears to reduce anxiety. This is different from the mechanism that regulates nicotine reward and likely occurs in a separate brain area.
“This work is unique because it suggests that nicotine may be acting through inactivation, rather than activation, of the high affinity nicotinic receptors,” said Darlene Brunzell, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the VCU School of Medicine.
“Nicotine acts like a key that unlocks nicotine receptors in the brain. Usually that key opens the receptor, but at other times nicotine is like a key that has gotten broken inside of the lock. Our findings suggest that low-dose nicotine may block a specific subtype of receptor from opening that is important for regulating anxiety behavior,” she said, adding that anxiety is a major reason why people relapse to smoking.
Discovery of gatekeeper nerve cells explains the effect of nicotine on learning and memory
Researchers at Uppsala University have, together with Brazilian collaborators, discovered a new group of nerve cells that regulate processes of learning and memory. These cells act as gatekeepers and carry a receptor for nicotine, which can explain our ability to remember and sort information.
The discovery of the gatekeeper cells, which are part of a memory network together with several other nerve cells in the hippocampus, reveal new fundamental knowledge about learning and memory. The study is published today in Nature Neuroscience.
The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is important for consolidation of information into memories and helps us to learn new things. The newly discovered gatekeeper nerve cells, also called OLM-alpha2 cells, provide an explanation to how the flow of information is controlled in the hippocampus.
“It is known that nicotine improves cognitive processes including learning and memory, but this is the first time that an identified nerve cell population is linked to the effects of nicotine”, says Professor Klas Kullander at Uppsala University.
Occupancy of Brain Dopamine D3 Receptors and Drug Craving: A Translational Approach
Selective dopamine D3 receptor (D3R) antagonists prevent reinstatement of drug-seeking behavior and decrease the rewarding effects of contextual cues associated with drug intake preclinically, suggesting that they may reduce drug craving in humans. GSK598809 is a selective D3R antagonist recently progressed in Phase I trials. The aim of this study was to establish a model, based on the determination of the occupancy of brain D3Rs (OD3R) across species, to predict the ability of GSK598809 to reduce nicotine-seeking behavior in humans, here assessed as cigarette craving in smokers. Using ex vivo [125I](R)-trans-7-hydroxy-2-[N-propyl-N-(3′-iodo-2′-propenyl)amino] tetralin ([125I]7OH-PIPAT) autoradiography and [11C]PHNO positron emission tomography, we demonstrated a dose-dependent occupancy of the D3Rs by GSK598809 in rat, baboon, and human brains. We also showed a direct relationship between OD3R and pharmacokinetic exposure, and potencies in line with the in vitro binding affinity. Likewise, GSK598809 dose dependently reduced the expression of nicotine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) in rats, with an effect proportional to the exposure and OD3R at every time point, and 100% effect at OD3R values greater than or equal to 72%. In humans, a single dose of GSK598809, giving submaximal levels (72–89%) of OD3R, transiently alleviated craving in smokers after overnight abstinence. These data suggest that either higher OD3R is required for a full effect in humans or that nicotine-seeking behavior in CPP rats only partially translates into craving for cigarettes in short-term abstinent smokers. In addition, they provide the first clinical evidence of potential efficacy of a selective D3R antagonist for the treatment of substance-use disorders.
June 27th, 2012
Weill Cornell researchers develop novel antibody vaccine that blocks addictive nicotine chemicals from reaching the brain.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed and successfully tested in mice an innovative vaccine to treat nicotine addiction.
In the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists describe how a single dose of their novel vaccine protects mice, over their lifetime, against nicotine addiction. The vaccine is designed to use the animal’s liver as a factory to continuously produce antibodies that gobble up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, preventing the chemical from reaching the brain and even the heart.
“As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal , chairman and professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
“Our vaccine allows the body to make its own monoclonal antibodies against nicotine, and in that way, develop a workable immunity,” Dr. Crystal says.
The new vaccine has been tested in mice and could one day help people to quit smoking cigarettes, should they choose. Much testing remains until the vaccine can be tested in humans. Image is in the public domain.
Previously tested nicotine vaccines have failed in clinical trials because they all directly deliver nicotine antibodies, which only last a few weeks and require repeated, expensive injections, Dr. Crystal says. Plus, this kind of impractical, passive vaccine has had inconsistent results, perhaps because the dose needed may be different for each person, especially if they start smoking again, he adds.
“While we have only tested mice to date, we are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches,” he says. Studies show that between 70 and 80 percent of smokers who try to quit light up again within six months, Dr. Crystal adds.
About 20 percent of adult Americans smoke, and while it is the 4,000 chemicals within the burning cigarette that causes the health problems associated with smoking — diseases that lead to one out of every five deaths in the U.S. — it is the nicotine within the tobacco that keeps the smoker hooked.
A new kind of vaccine
There are, in general, two kinds of vaccines. One is an active vaccine, like those used to protect humans against polio, the mumps, and so on. This kind of vaccine presents a bit of the foreign substance (a piece of virus, for example) to the immune system, which “sees” it and activates a lifetime immune response against the intruder. Since nicotine is a small molecule, it is not recognized by the immune system and cannot be built into an active vaccine.
The second type of vaccine is a passive vaccine, which delivers readymade antibodies to elicit an immune response. For example, the delivery of monoclonal (identically produced) antibodies that bind on to growth factor proteins on breast cancer cells shut down their activity.
The Weill Cornell research team developed a new, third kind — a genetic vaccine — that they initially tested in mice to treat certain eye diseases and tumor types. The team’s new nicotine vaccine is based on this model.
The researchers took the genetic sequence of an engineered nicotine antibody, created by co-author Dr. Jim D. Janda, of The Scripps Research Institute, and put it into an adeno-associated virus (AAV), a virus engineered to not be harmful. They also included information that directed the vaccine to go to hepatocytes, which are liver cells. The antibody’s genetic sequence then inserts itself into the nucleus of hepatocytes, and these cells start to churn out a steady stream of the antibodies, along with all the other molecules they make.
In mice studies, the vaccine produced high levels of the antibody continuously, which the researchers measured in the blood. They also discovered that little of the nicotine they administered to these mice reached the brain. Researchers tested activity of the experimental mice, treated with both a vaccine and nicotine, and saw that it was not altered; infrared beams in the animals’ cages showed they were just as active as before the vaccine was delivered. In contrast, mice that received nicotine and not treated with the vaccine basically “chilled out” — they relaxed and their blood pressure and heart activity were lowered — signs that the nicotine had reached the brain and cardiovascular system.
The researchers are preparing to test the novel nicotine vaccine in rats and then in primates — steps needed before it can be tested ultimately in humans.
Dr. Crystal says that, if successful, such a vaccine would best be used in smokers who are committed to quitting. “They will know if they start smoking again, they will receive no pleasure from it due to the nicotine vaccine, and that can help them kick the habit,” he says.
He adds that it might be possible, given the complete safety of the vaccine, to use it to preempt nicotine addiction in individuals who have never smoked, in the same way that vaccines are used now to prevent a number of disease-producing infections. “Just as parents decide to give their children an HPV vaccine, they might decide to use a nicotine vaccine. But that is only theoretically an option at this point,” Dr. Crystal says. “We would of course have to weight benefit versus risk, and it would take years of studies to establish such a threshold.”
“Smoking affects a huge number of people worldwide, and there are many people who would like to quit, but need effective help,” he says. “This novel vaccine may offer a much-needed solution.”
Source: Neuroscience News