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.

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 August 20, 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 August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Residents of Sierra Leone's capital voice their fears as the Ebola virus sweeps through west Africa. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Herman Goldman has worked at the same lighting store for almost 75 years. Find out his secrets to a happy, productive life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Nancy Writebol, an American missionary who contracted Ebola, is apparently getting better, according to her husband. The outbreak, however, is not. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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