Nicotine may affect cell function by rearranging protein complexes. We aimed to determine nicotine-induced alterations of protein complexes in Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) cells, thereby revealing links between nicotine exposure and protein complex modulation. We compared the proteomic alterations induced by low and high nicotine concentrations (0.01 mM and 1 mM) with the control (no nicotine) in vivo by using mass spectrometry (MS)-based techniques, specifically the cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) discontinuous gel electrophoresis coupled with liquid chromatography (LC)-MS/MS and spectral counting. As a result, we identified dozens of C. elegans proteins that are present exclusively or in higher abundance in either nicotine-treated or untreated worms. Based on these results, we report a possible network that captures the key protein components of nicotine-induced protein complexes and speculate how the different protein modules relate to their distinct physiological roles. Using functional annotation of detected proteins, we hypothesize that the identified complexes can modulate the energy metabolism and level of oxidative stress. These proteins can also be involved in modulation of gene expression and may be crucial in Alzheimer's disease. The findings reported in our study reveal putative intracellular interactions of many proteins with the cytoskeleton and may contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) signaling and trafficking in cells.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Nicotine; epigenetics; fatty acid metabolism; hormesis; insulin signaling; oxidative stress.