Neuronal networks of nicotine addiction

Marcelo O. Ortells, Hugo R. Arias

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Nicotine is the main psychoactive substance present in tobacco, targeting neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. The main effects of nicotine associated with smoking are nicotinic receptor activation, desensitization, and upregulation, with the subsequent modulation of the mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic system. However, there is a lack of a comprehensive explanation of their roles that effectively makes clear how nicotine dependence might be established on those grounds. Receptor upregulation is an unusual effect for a drug of abuse, because theoretically this implies less need for drug consumption. Receptor upregulation and receptor desensitization are commonly viewed as opposite, homeostatic mechanisms. We here review the available information on smoking addiction, especially under a recently presented model of nicotine dependence. In this model both receptor upregulation and receptor desensitization are responsible for establishing a biochemical mechanism of nicotine dependence, which have an important role in starting and maintaining tobacco addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1931-1935
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain reward circuitry
  • Neuronal pathways
  • Nicotine dependence
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
  • Smoking addiction

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