November 18, 2002
North Carolina State University
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.
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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>.
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North Carolina State University. "Gene Researchers Close In On Nicotine's "Evil Cousin"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/11/021118065203.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).