Suggested by Ben Levenson –
May 22, 2019 – Molecular memory – When young neurons are exposed to a foreign drug, such as nicotine, they create a molecular “memory,” said first author Ben Romoli, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Dulcis’ lab. By increasing the expression of nicotine receptors and the molecular marker Nurr1, a protein that is normally found only in dopaminergic neurons, these GABA- and Glutamate-expressing neurons acquire the “readiness” to switch to a dopaminergic program when properly motivated by nicotine in the adult.
“We found that when the same animals are exposed to nicotine in adulthood, a fraction of these ‘primed’ glutamatergic neurons in the reward center begins to express genes required to produce dopamine. More dopamine in the system generates enhanced reward responses that lead to increased nicotine preference.” Dulcis said uncovering the molecular mechanism and the identity of the neuronal network involved is an important step toward a fuller comprehension of how a complex condition like addiction may work.