Addiction enzyme identified

PKC epsilon enzyme determines brain’s response to alcohol and nicotine

A recent study has pinpointed an enzyme that seems to play a role in controlling the way the brain responds to nicotine and alcohol, presenting the possibility for the creation of a drug that could treat addiction to both.

Researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in Emeryville genetically engineered mice to lack protein kinase C epsilon (PKC epsilon), according to media sources. The mice lacking the enzyme consumed less of a solution containing nicotine and were less likely to return to a chamber in which they were given nicotine. The findings support earlier research in which mice lacking PKC epsilon had a similar response to alcohol.

PKC epsilon regulates nicotinic receptors on dopamine neurons, which produce a sense of enjoyment from exposure to nicotine or alcohol; mice lacking it were deficient in these receptors, and did not experience the sensation of reward.