Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 17192649
J. Mol. Neurosci. 2006 ; 30(1-2): 105-6
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the brain exhibit diverse functional properties and ubiquitous distribution. Yet, except for providing a receptor for the exogenously applied nicotine of tobacco products, their role in the normal functioning of the brain has remained elusive. We have used a lentiviral expression vector to re-express the beta2 subunit specifically in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of beta2-/- mice. The viral vector efficiently expresses beta2- subunit protein leading to new nAChR-binding sites. VTA neurons transduced by the lentiviral vector are responsive to intravenous nicotine when analyzed using in vivo electrophysiology. Nicotine-induced dopamine release from the nucleus accumbens (NuAcc) was also restored in re-expressing beta2-/- mice. Intra-VTA injection of nicotine was found to be reinforcing in both wild-type and beta2-subunit re-expressing beta2-/- mice, but not in beta2-/- mice. Furthermore, in the absence of applied nicotine, the spontaneous slow exploratory behavior of the mice was restored, whereas fast navigation did not change. This latter behavioral analysis suggests a role for beta2* nAChR, specifically expressed in the VTA, in mammalian cognitive function.