Molecule of the Month: Nicotine, Cancer, and Addiction
Nicotine causes addiction by interacting with receptors in the brain
Nicotine and Addiction
An Alternate Key
Building the Receptor
Detoxification and Cancer
Exploring the Structure
Nicotine and NNK bound to Cytochrome P450
Cytochrome P450 2A6 begins the process of detoxifying nicotine, which is then converted to cotinine, a less toxic substance that is subsequently excreted. In a similar reaction, multiple cytochrome P450 enzymes activate NNK, which can cause cancer. The heme group in these enzymes plays a central role in both reactions, and nicotine and NNK bind in a similar place, as seen in PDB entries 4ejj and 4ejh. To explore these structures in more detail, click on the image for an interactive JSmol.
Topics for Further Discussion
- Explore the chemical structures of nicotine and NNK at the RCSB ligand library.
- Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get the latest facts on teen tobacco use.
Related PDB-101 Resources
- Browse Cancer
- Browse You and Your Health
- Browse Cellular Signaling
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- Wittenberg, R. E., Wolfman, S. L., De Biasi, M., and Dani J. A. (2020) Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and nicotine addiction: A brief introduction. Neuropharmacology 177, 108256.
- 6pv7: Gharpure, A., Teng, J., Zhuang, Y., Noviello, C. M., Walsh, Jr., R. M., Cabuco, R., Howard, R. J., Zaveri, N. T., Lindahl, E., and Hibbs, R. E. (2019) Agonist selectivity and ion permeation in the α3β4 ganglionic nicotinic receptor. Neuron 104, 501-511.
- Dani J. A. (2015) Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor structure and function and response to nicotine. International Review of Neurobiology 124, 3–19.
- Xue, J., Yang, S., and Seng S. (2014) Mechanisms of cancer induction by tobacco-specific NNK and NNN. Cancers 6, 1138–1156.
- 4ejh, 4ejj: DeVore, N. M. and Scott, E. E. (2012) Nicotine and 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone binding and access channel in human cytochrome P450 2A6 and 2A13 enzymes. Journal of Biological Chemistry 287, 26576–26585.
- Dani, J. A. and Bertrand, D. (2007) Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and nicotinic cholinergic mechanisms of the central nervous system. Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology 47, 699-729.
May 2022, Kanza Choudhry, Danielle Muse, Diego Prado De Maio, Angeliz A. Soto Acevedo, David S. Goodsell, Shuchismita Duttadoi:10.2210/rcsb_pdb/mom_2022_5