Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gene Researchers Close In On Nicotine's "Evil Cousin"

Date:
November 18, 2002
Source:
North Carolina State University
Summary:
Take a nicotine molecule and snip off a methyl group, and you've got nicotine's evil cousin: nornicotine. This truncated version of nicotine, helped by certain tobacco-leaf microbes, converts to nitrosamines - potent carcinogens - during the tobacco-curing process. If researchers could find the genetic location of the enzyme that removes nicotine's methyl group, tobacco with little or no nornicotine would be possible.

Nicotine isn't all bad, despite its addictive qualities and its presence in tobacco products, increasingly taboo in these health-conscious times. As a chemical compound, nicotine even has beneficial properties. It's used around the world as a relatively cheap, environmentally friendly insecticide, repelling bugs that attack tobacco and other plants, and - contrary to popular misconceptions - it is not a carcinogen.

Related Articles


Take a nicotine molecule and snip off a methyl group, though, and you've got nicotine's evil cousin: nornicotine. (A methyl group is one carbon and three hydrogen atoms.) This truncated version of nicotine, helped by certain tobacco-leaf microbes, converts to nitrosamines - potent carcinogens - during the tobacco-curing process. If researchers could find the genetic location of the enzyme that removes nicotine's methyl group, tobacco with little or no nornicotine would be possible.

That's the task of Dr. Ralph Dewey, professor of crop science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University. Working with select lines of Burley tobacco, he and his colleagues are trying to isolate the nicotine N-demethylase gene from among the 25,000 or so unique genes found in tobacco.

When they're successful, says Dewey, they'll have achieved several key goals. "One, we'll have created a large genomic database. Two, we'll have the tools needed to reduce the levels of harmful nitrosamines in Burley tobacco. And three, we'll develop information that could, perhaps, lead to alternate uses for this important North Carolina crop."

Tobacco's genome, however, is just now being investigated, so Dewey and fellow researchers at the Genome Research Laboratory on NC State's Centennial Campus are faced with a painstaking process of elimination. They do have a few clues, though. Nicotine changes to nornicotine when tobacco is "senescing" - getting old and turning yellow - so genes involved in the aging process are getting a close look. They also suspect that the chromosomal location of the culprit gene is "unstable," or prone to transposition or mutation, so such locations also warrant an interested eye. And if they can verify that the gene is of the type known as a "P450," they'll have narrowed their search to about 500 genes - which is progress in Dewey's line of work.

Dewey also has access to the Genome Research Lab's microarray technology, which automates and computerizes a process once done by hand. Capable of placing up to 5,000 genes on microscope slides and showing results on a high-resolution scanner, the high-tech tool is speeding the search for the unwelcome, nornicotine-triggering gene.

Funded in part by the Philip Morris Companies, Dewey's research is a modest but important part of the larger Tobacco Genome Project ongoing at NC State's Genome Research Lab. Recognizing the huge role that tobacco plays in North Carolina's - and other states' - economy, and the need to both reduce its toxic compounds and find more uses for the crop, Dewey and his colleagues methodically pursue their quarry in the daunting molecular realm. Their efforts are largely unheralded, and success - so far - is elusive. But the days of nornicotine, nicotine's ominous cousin, are probably numbered.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

North Carolina State University. "Gene Researchers Close In On Nicotine's "Evil Cousin"." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021118065203.htm>.
North Carolina State University. (2002, November 18). Gene Researchers Close In On Nicotine's "Evil Cousin". ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021118065203.htm
North Carolina State University. "Gene Researchers Close In On Nicotine's "Evil Cousin"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021118065203.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins