Scripps Research Institute Professor Kim Janda (center), Graduate Student
Song Xue (left) and Research Associate Joel Schlosburg were authors of the new paper
(August 7, 2015) A new study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) explores a bacterial enzyme that might be used as a drug candidate to help people quit smoking. The research shows that this enzyme can be recreated in lab settings and possesses a number of promising characteristics for drug development.
“Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,” said Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI.
The new research, published online ahead of print on August 6 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, offers a possible alternative to current smoking cessation aids, which are shown to fail in at least 80 to 90 percent of smokers. The idea behind an enzyme therapy would be to seek out and destroy nicotine before it reaches the brain—depriving a person of the “reward” of nicotine that can trigger relapse into smoking.
For more than 30 years, Janda and his colleagues have struggled to create such an enzyme in the lab, but they recently ran across a potential enzyme found in nature—NicA2 from the bacteria known as Pseudomonas putida. It turns out this bacterium—originally isolated from soil in a tobacco field—consumes nicotine as its sole source of carbon and nitrogen.