News from IMIM and CEXS-UPF
Researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in collaboration with scientists from Pompeu Fabra University, the Pasteur Institute and Pierre and Marie Curie University, have discovered a crucial neural mechanism that explains the process of nicotine reward and addiction.
Nicotine exerts its psychopharmacological effects by activating receptors that are very abundant in several specific regions of the brain, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR). The study has found that some of these cerebral receptors contain a subunit known as beta4. This is present almost exclusively in a key pathway in the brain's reward circuit and is crucial for the positive reward effects caused by the nicotine in our brain.
“The project, which was carried out using mice, found that those lacking the gene codifying for subunit beta4 showed reduced nicotine consumption and an abnormal neuronal response to nicotine from the dopamine "reward" system. Selectively replacing this nicotine receptor subunit in these mice using a virus, restored the nicotine consumption as well as the dopaminergic response to the nicotine”, explains Patricia Robledo, the coordinator of the study.
Role of β4* Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors in the Habenulo-Interpeduncular Pathway in Nicotine Reinforcement in Mice. Harrington L, Viñals X, Herrera-Solís A, Flores A, Morel C, Tolu S, Faure P, Maldonado R, Maskos U, Robledo P. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015