Researchers discover nicotine demethylase gene

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U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC) announced today that scientists at its GenApps Inc. laboratories in Winchester, Kentucky, led by Drs. Mark Nielsen and Dongmei Xu, succeeded in discovering a key tobacco gene encoding nicotine demethylase.

The gene has been cloned, sequenced and its function characterized. The company said it is expecting publication of United States and international patent applications for this discovery in the very near future.

Nicotine demethylase is the enzyme that facilitates the conversion of nicotine into nornicotine. Nornicotine is known to be the precursor to the tobacco specific nitrosamine N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), which has been the subject of considerable research within the scientific community for many years.

"This important and fundamental discovery holds the promise for commercial production of low-nitrosamine tobacco with significantly reduced NNN levels within the next decade," said Dr. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., Executive Vice President, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. "This discovery is a direct result of years of USSTC efforts to reduce tobacco-specific nitrosamines to the lowest levels possible while meeting adult consumer expectations for high-quality products."

GenApps scientists are preparing presentations and articles for peer-reviewed publications that will fully detail this discovery over the next several months.

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company (USSTC), through its subsidiaries, is a leading producer and marketer of moist smokeless tobacco products. The Company's primary brands are Copenhagen, Skoal, Red Seal, Husky and Rooster. The Company is the only smokeless tobacco manufacturer to sign the Smokeless Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (STMSA). Under the STMSA, the Company voluntarily adopted an array of advertising and promotional restrictions and agreed to pay $100 million towards programs to reduce youth access to tobacco products and combat youth substance abuse.

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