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Effects of prenatal nicotine exposure on nicotinic receptors

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Peter Sargent, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9RT-0101 Award: $471,654
Subject Area: Nicotine Dependence
Award Type: Research Project Awards
Abstracts

Initial Award Abstract
Cigarette smoking is a highly addictive behavior. The chemical in cigarettes that gives tobacco users their “kick” is nicotine, and this chemical has a number of effects on the brain. The target of nicotine is a family of protein molecules called “nicotinic receptors.” The real purpose of these molecules isn’t to respond to nicotine but rather to respond to a chemical “transmitter” that some nerve cells in the brain use to communicate with each other. Nicotine interferes with this communication, enhancing some connections between nerve cells and depressing others. Nicotine has both rapidly-acting and long term effects on its receptors; it is the long term effects that probably lead to our becoming addicted to nicotine. To understand these effects, it is important to study the receptor molecules with which nicotine interacts. I am doing this by looking at whether long-term exposure to nicotine changes the number of receptors in the brain and whether it alters the way those receptors work. I will expose rats at around the time of birth to low levels of nicotine for a few weeks, to mimic the exposure they might have received if their mother had “smoked.” I will then examine the nicotinic receptors in these rats to learn how they have been affected by this long-term exposure to nicotine. This research will hopefully tell us more about the effects of maternal smoking on the unborn child.
Publications

Properties of nicotinic receptors underlying Renshaw cell excitation by alpha-motor neurons in neonatal rat spinal cord.
Periodical: Journal of Neurophysiology Index Medicus:
Authors: Dourado M, and Sargent PB ART
Yr: 2002 Vol: 87 Nbr: Abs: Pg: 3117-3125