, Volume 43, Issue 8, pp 868-873

Evidence for an olfactory receptor which responds to nicotine — nicotine as an odorant

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The tobacco alkaloid (S)(−)-nicotine, when applied as a vapour to an in vitro head preparation, stimulates the olfactory epithelium in three strains of rats and to a lesser extent in two strains of mice. The electro-olfactogram (EOG) generated by nicotine has similar characteristics to the EOGs produced by known odorants. The nicotine EOG increases with increasing concentration of nicotine vapour (1–100 nM) applied to the olfactory epithelium.

Differential reduction of the nicotine EOG by the lectin concanavalin A is seen in Wistar and Lister Hooded rats. The reduction of the nicotine EOG by concanavalin A is prevented by adding alpha-methyl-D-mannoside to the lectin superfusion medium. This suggests that there is a glyco-moiety associated with at least one olfactory receptor responding to nicotine.

Our results suggest that rat olfactory epithelium has receptor sites for nicotine. Nicotine is an unusual compound because it shows both odorant and pharmacological properties.