Uncovering the structure and gating mechanism of a7 protein

UT Southwestern researchers have identified the structure of a key member of a family of proteins called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in three different shapes. The work, published online today in Cell, could eventually ...

Researchers use snake venom to solve structure of muscle protein

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have uncovered the detailed shape of a key protein involved in muscle contraction. The report, published today in Neuron, may lead to improved understanding of muscle-weakening ...

Nicotine's hold: What the gut and gender have to do with it

Many people who smoke or chew tobacco can't seem to escape nicotine's addictive properties. Studies show that women in particular seem to have a harder time quitting, even with assistance, when compared to men. Now, scientists ...

Nicotine enhances bees' activity

Nicotine-laced nectar can speed up a bumblebee's ability to learn flower colours, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Bugs make ideal crime scene clues

It might seem like an idea out of CSI: Las Vegas, but local forensic researchers have come up with a way of using blowflies to determine if someone has died via nicotine poisoning.

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Nicotine

Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae) which constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of dry weight of tobacco, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots, and accumulating in the leaves. It functions as an antiherbivore chemical with particular specificity to insects; therefore nicotine was widely used as an insecticide in the past, and currently nicotine analogs such as imidacloprid continue to be widely used.

In low concentrations (an average cigarette yields about 1 mg of absorbed nicotine), the substance acts as a stimulant in mammals and is one of the main factors responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking. According to the American Heart Association, "Nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest addictions to break." The pharmacological and behavioral characteristics that determine tobacco addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Nicotine content in cigarettes has actually slowly increased over the years, and one study found that there was an average increase of 1.6% per year between the years of 1998 and 2005. This was found for all major market categories of cigarettes.

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