Nicotine high hinges on sugar molecule

Nicotine structureWhen nicotine binds to a neuron, how does the cell know to send the signal that announces a smoker’s high? A recently determined crystal structure of a key player in the process suggests that a sugar molecule has a simple mechanical role acting as a hinge to open a gate in the cell membrane. The research might one day lead to new treatments for drug addiction, depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other disorders.

I discussed the issue with Lin Chen of the University of Southern California and you can read the full story in the X-ray crystallography channel on