Cigarette Smoking Saturates Brain α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors | Lifestyle Behaviors | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network
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Original Article
August 2006

Cigarette Smoking Saturates Brain α4β2 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences (Drs Brody and London, Mr Scheibal, and Mss Jou, Allen, and Tiongson), University of California, Los Angeles; Greater Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Healthcare System Positron Emission Tomography Center (Drs Brody, Mandelkern, London, Olmstead, and Farahi, Mr Scheibal, and Mss Jou, Allen, and Tiongson), Los Angeles; Department of Physics, University of California, Irvine (Dr Mandelkern); Intramural Research Program, Neuroimaging Research Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rockville, Md (Drs Chefer and Mukhin); and Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, New Haven, Conn (Dr Koren).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006;63(8):907-914. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.63.8.907
Abstract

Context  2-[18F]fluoro-3-(2(S)-azetidinylmethoxy) pyridine (2-F-A-85380, abbreviated as 2-FA) is a recently developed radioligand that allows for visualization of brain α4β2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) with positron emission tomography (PET) scanning in humans.

Objective  To determine the effect of cigarette smoking on α4β2* nAChR occupancy in tobacco-dependent smokers.

Design  Fourteen 2-FA PET scanning sessions were performed. During the PET scanning sessions, subjects smoked 1 of 5 amounts (none, 1 puff, 3 puffs, 1 full cigarette, or to satiety [2½ to 3 cigarettes]).

Setting  Academic brain imaging center.

Participants  Eleven tobacco-dependent smokers (paid volunteers).

Main Outcome Measure  Dose-dependent effect of smoking on occupancy of α4β2* nAChRs, as measured with 2-FA and PET in nAChR-rich brain regions.

Results  Smoking 0.13 (1 to 2 puffs) of a cigarette resulted in 50% occupancy of α4β2* nAChRs for 3.1 hours after smoking. Smoking a full cigarette (or more) resulted in more than 88% receptor occupancy and was accompanied by a reduction in cigarette craving. A venous plasma nicotine concentration of 0.87 ng/mL (roughly 1/25th of the level achieved in typical daily smokers) was associated with 50% occupancy of α4β2* nAChRs.

Conclusions  Cigarette smoking in amounts used by typical daily smokers leads to nearly complete occupancy of α4β2* nAChRs, indicating that tobacco-dependent smokers maintain α4β2* nAChR saturation throughout the day. Because prolonged binding of nicotine to α4β2* nAChRs is associated with desensitization of these receptors, the extent of receptor occupancy found herein suggests that smoking may lead to withdrawal alleviation by maintaining nAChRs in the desensitized state.

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