Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 21901321
Psychopharmacology (Berl.) 2012 Mar;220(1):1-14
RATIONALE: Nicotine is the main addictive component of tobacco and modifies brain function via its action on neuronal acetylcholine nicotinic receptors (nAChRs). The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system, where neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) project to the nucleus accumbens (ACb), is considered a core site for the processing of nicotine’s reinforcing properties. However, the precise subtypes of nAChRs that mediate the rewarding properties of nicotine and that contribute to the development of addiction remain to be identified.
OBJECTIVES: We investigated the role of the nAChRs containing the α7 nicotinic subunit (α7 nAChRs) in the reinforcing properties of nicotine within the VTA and in the nicotine-induced changes in ACb DA outflow in vivo.
METHODS: We performed intra-VTA self-administration and microdialysis experiments in genetically modified mice lacking the α7 nicotinic subunit or after pharmacological blockade of α7 nAChRs in wild-type mice.
RESULTS: We show that the reinforcing properties of nicotine within the VTA are lower in the absence or after pharmacological blockade of α7 nAChRs. We also report that nicotine-induced increases in ACb DA extracellular levels last longer in the absence of these receptors, suggesting that α7 nAChRs regulate the action of nicotine on DA levels over time.
CONCLUSIONS: The present results reveal new insights for the role of α7 nAChRs in modulating the action of nicotine within the mesolimbic circuit. These receptors appear to potentiate the reinforcing action of nicotine administered into the VTA while regulating its action over time on DA outflow in the ACb.