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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1994 Nov;49(3):531-40.

Individual differences in sensitivity to nicotine in mice: response to six generations of selective breeding.

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  • 1Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309-0447.


Four hundred seventeen heterogeneous stock mice were tested for their relative sensitivity to a low dose of nicotine (0.75 mg/kg) using activity in an automated Y-maze and body temperature as response measures. A wide spectrum of individual responsiveness to nicotine, ranging from complete suppression of activity to stimulation above baseline activity, was found. Replicate measures taken 1 week later on the same animals showed the responses to nicotine to be reliable and reproducible. Activity levels and body temperatures following nicotine administration were highly correlated (r = 0.60, df = 415). From analysis of between-litter proportions of variance, the heritability of nicotine-influenced activity was estimated to be 0.12, indicating that selective breeding for differential responsiveness to nicotine would be possible. The 10 most activated and 10 most depressed male and female mice were chosen as breeders for replicate nicotine activated (NA) and nicotine depressed (ND) lines, respectively. The selection criterion was nicotine-induced activity corrected for baseline activity using regression residuals. After six generations of selective breeding a good response to selection was obtained, although the response was better for the ND than for the NA lines. Realized heritability for responsiveness to nicotine calculated from the six selected generations was found to be 0.20, or slightly greater than that estimated from the foundation population. There were no significant differences in response to selection between the replicate NA or ND lines. Nicotine-induced body temperature was measured as a correlated response to selection, and was found to remain highly correlated with nicotine-induced locomotor activity. The response was more robust for the ND lines than it was for the NA lines. In contrast to the large differences between the ND and NA lines in locomotor activity and body temperatures following nicotine administration, mean baseline activities and body temperatures remained nearly identical throughout. This indicates that selection acted specifically on nicotine-induced responses, and not on baseline measurements, as predicted for response to a selection criterion based on regression residuals.

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