Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychoactive Compound Activates Mysterious Receptor

Date:
February 13, 2009
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
A hallucinogenic compound found in a plant indigenous to South America and used in shamanic rituals regulates a mysterious protein that is abundant throughout the body, researchers have discovered.

A hallucinogenic compound found in a plant indigenous to South America and used in shamanic rituals regulates a mysterious protein that is abundant throughout the body, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have discovered.

Related Articles


The finding, reported in the Feb. 13 issue of Science, may ultimately have implications for treating drug abuse and/or depression. Many more experiments will be needed, the researchers say.

Scientists have been searching for years for naturally occurring compounds that trigger activity in the protein, the sigma-1 receptor. In addition, a unique receptor for the hallucinogen, called dimethyltryptamine (DMT), has never been identified.

The UW-Madison researchers made the unusual pairing by doing their initial work the "old-fashioned," yet still effective, way. They diagrammed the chemical structure of several drugs that bind to the sigma-1 receptor, reduced them to their simplest forms and then searched for possible natural molecules with the same features. Biochemical, physiological and behavioral experiments proved that DMT does, in fact, activate the sigma-1 receptor.

"We have no idea at present if or how the sigma-1 receptor may be connected to hallucinogenic activity," says senior author Arnold Ruoho, chair of pharmacology at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. "But we believe that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) may be interested in biological mechanisms underlying psychoactive and addictive drug action."

In addition to being a component of psychoactive snuffs and sacramental teas used in native religious practices in Latin America, DMT is known to be present in some mammalian tissues, and it has also been identified in mammalian blood and spinal fluid. Elevated levels of DMT and a related molecule have been found in the urine of schizophrenics.

Ruoho speculates that the hallucinogen's involvement may mean that the sigma-1 receptor is connected in some fashion to psychoactive behavior. When his team injected DMT into mice known to have the receptor, the animals became hyperactive; mice in which the receptor had been genetically removed did not.

"Hyperactive behavior is often associated with drug use or psychiatric problems," says Ruoho. "It's possible that new, highly selective drugs could be developed to inhibit the receptor and prevent this behavior."

The study revealed an additional neurologic link by confirming that the sigma-1 receptor and some compounds that bind to it inhibit ion channels, which are important for nerve activity. Work by many researchers — including some from UW-Madison — initially showed this relationship in earlier studies.

Some studies have also linked the receptor to the action of antidepressant drugs, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists recently found that it appears to serve as a "chaperon," helping proteins to fold properly.

The Wisconsin researchers found that DMT is derived from the naturally occurring amino acid tryptophan and is structurally related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This finding, Ruoho says, illustrates the mantra often used in the biological processing of natural molecules: Nothing goes to waste.

"Our findings support the idea that biochemical alterations of molecules such as tryptophan can produce simple compounds such as DMT that may target other regulatory pathways served by sigma-1 receptors," he says.

DMT may also reflect the presence of an even larger family of natural compounds that arise from other structurally related amino acids that may further regulate the receptor, Ruoho adds.

"It may well be that these different, naturally derived chemical forms regulate the sigma-1 receptor in tissue and organ-specific ways," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Psychoactive Compound Activates Mysterious Receptor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212141158.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2009, February 13). Psychoactive Compound Activates Mysterious Receptor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212141158.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "Psychoactive Compound Activates Mysterious Receptor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090212141158.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AAA: Distracted Driving a Serious Teen Problem

AP (Mar. 25, 2015) While distracted driving is not a new problem for teens, new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says it&apos;s much more serious than previously thought. (March 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction, Say Researchers

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) European researchers say our smartphone use offers scientists an ideal testing ground for human brain plasticity. Dr Ako Ghosh&apos;s team discovered that the brains and thumbs of smartphone users interact differently from those who use old-fashioned handsets. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Many Don't Know They Have Alzheimer's, But Their Doctors Do

Newsy (Mar. 24, 2015) According to a new study by the Alzheimer&apos;s Association, more than half of those who have the degenerative brain disease aren&apos;t told by their doctors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

A Quick 45-Minute Nap Can Improve Your Memory

Newsy (Mar. 23, 2015) Researchers found those who napped for 45 minutes to an hour before being tested on information recalled it five times better than those who didn&apos;t. 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:

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