Nicotine (Molecule of the Month for November 2004)
Nicotine is an organic compound, an alkaloid found naturally throughout the tobacco plant, with a high concentration in the leaves. It constitutes 0.3 to 5% of the plant by dry weight, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots, and accumulates in the leaves.
It is a potent nerve poison and is included in many insecticides. In lower concentrations, the substance is a stimulant and is one of the main factors leading to the pleasure and habit-forming qualities of tobacco smoking.
Nicotine has limited carcinogenic effects, inhibiting the body's ability to destroy potentially cancerous cells; however, nicotine does not promote the development of cancer in healthy cells. In addition to the tobacco plant, nicotine is also found in lower quantities in other members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, which includes tomato, potato, eggplant (aubergine), and green pepper. Nicotine alkaloids are also found in the leaves of the coca plant.
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for November 2004 )