Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 16458492
J. Physiol. Paris 2006 Mar-May;99(2-3):162-71
Nicotine addiction, the primary cause of tobacco consumption, is mediated through nicotine binding to brain nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChRs). Upon chronic exposure, nicotine elicits a cascade of events, starting with nAChR activation and desensitization, followed by a long term up-regulation that corresponds to an increase in the number of the high affinity nAChRs, a paradoxical process that occurs in the brain of smokers. Recent investigation of the maturation and trafficking of the major brain alpha4beta2 nAChR demonstrates that up-regulation is initiated in the endoplasmic reticulum soon after protein translation. The data thus far accumulated provide evidence that nicotine elicits up-regulation by promoting maturation of nAChR precursors that would otherwise be degraded. This “maturational enhancer” action of nicotine probably contributes to the long term effect of chronic nicotine, and suggests a novel mechanism of neuronal plasticity through an yet unknown endogenous substance which would modulate the receptor expression under physiological conditions.