Nicotine is the only known addictive substance that has been proven to alter basic cell chemistry that promotes addiction to nicotine according to research conducted by Henry A. Lester and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, Purdue University, and the University of Kentucky that was published in the Dec. 30, 2013, issue of The Journal of General Physiology.
The researchers found that nicotine acts as a pharmacological chaperone that increases the production of the receptor cells that produces nicotine addiction and promotes the movement of these receptor cells to the cell surface where the addictive capacity of nicotine can be more easily exploited.
Using mice exposed to levels of nicotine that were comparable to the levels of nicotine that smokers are exposed to, the researchers found that a specific type of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor containing an alpha-6 subunit existed in the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental areas of the brain.
The presence of nicotine causes the Golgi body, the cellular source that initiates the production of different cell types, to produce more of the receptor cells that produce addiction to nicotine and to initiate the transfer of those cells to the cell surface where the cells can be most easily exposed to nicotine.
The discovery is expected to produce a more effective treatment of nicotine addiction that prevents the production of the receptor cells that promote addiction or inhibits the transfer of the receptor cells that promote nicotine addiction to the cell surface.