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Effect of nicotine exposure on mitochondria in myocytes

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): Asa Gustafsson, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 28) Grant #: 28IP-0025 Award: $500,000
Subject Area: Cardiovascular Disease
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract

The use of e-cigarettes delivering aerosolized nicotine as an alternative to smoking has increased exponentially in recent years. However, how the nicotine exposure affects the health of the heart is currently unknown. It is therefore important to better understand how nicotine might cause harm to the cells in the heart. Mitochondria are responsible for providing the beating muscle cells in the heart with energy. In this pilot proposal, we will examine how nicotine exposure affects the function of these organelles and their elimination from the cell. When mitochondria become damaged or dysfunctional, they can cause harm to the cell which can lead to cell death. Normally, these mitochondria are quickly removed by vesicles called autophagosomes in a process known as mitochondrial autophagy or mitophagy. When this process is impaired, it leads to accumulation of damaged mitochondria. In this proposal, we will examine how chronic exposure to nicotine affects the degradation of dysfunctional mitochondria via autophagy. These studies will provide important new insights into how nicotine exposure affects the clearance of damaged mitochondria in the heart and whether this will have adverse consequences for the heart, in particular during stress.