Evaluation of the Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor-Associated Proteome at Baseline and Following Nicotine Exposure in Human and Mouse Cortex

eNeuro. 2016 Aug 16;3(4):ENEURO.0166-16.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0166-16.2016. eCollection 2016 Jul-Aug.


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) support the initiation and maintenance of smoking, but the long-term changes occurring in the protein complex as a result of smoking and the nicotine in tobacco are not known. Human studies and animal models have also demonstrated that increasing cholinergic tone increases behaviors related to depression, suggesting that the nAChR-associated proteome could be altered in individuals with mood disorders. We therefore immunopurified nAChRs and associated proteins for quantitative proteomic assessment of changes in protein-protein interactions of high-affinity nAChRs containing the β2 subunit (β2*-nAChRs) from either cortex of mice treated with saline or nicotine, or postmortem human temporal cortex tissue from tobacco-exposed and nonexposed individuals, with a further comparison of diagnosed mood disorder to control subjects. We observed significant effects of nicotine exposure on the β2*-nAChR-associated proteome in human and mouse cortex, particularly in the abundance of the nAChR subunits themselves, as well as putative interacting proteins that make up core components of neuronal excitability (Na/K ATPase subunits), presynaptic neurotransmitter release (syntaxins, SNAP25, synaptotagmin), and a member of a known nAChR protein chaperone family (14-3-3ζ). These findings identify candidate-signaling proteins that could mediate changes in cholinergic signaling via nicotine or tobacco use. Further analysis of identified proteins will determine whether these interactions are essential for primary function of nAChRs at presynaptic terminals. The identification of differences in the nAChR-associated proteome and downstream signaling in subjects with various mood disorders may also identify novel etiological mechanisms and reveal new treatment targets.

Keywords: addiction; cortex; depression; nicotine; nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; proteomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Cotinine / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Mental Disorders / pathology
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Proteome / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / metabolism*
  • Smoking / metabolism
  • Smoking / pathology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / metabolism
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / pathology


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Proteome
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine