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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1999 Dec;64(4):827-39.

Behavioral sensitization following repeated intravenous nicotine administration: gender differences and gonadal hormones.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, College of Medicine, and Graduate Center for Toxicology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40536-0084, USA.


Repeated intermittent administration of stimulants is well known to produce behavioral sensitization in male animals. The present studies explored whether 1) behavioral sensitization occurred with the i.v. route of administration, 2) sensitization was greater in females than in males, 3) sensitization was modulated by gonadectomy, 4) intact adult female rats maintained normal estrous cytology patterns in response to repeated nicotine administration, and 5) the pharmacokinetics of i.v. nicotine dosing. Adult male, female, castrated, and ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 48) were surgically implanted with an intravenous access port. Animals received 50 microg/kg i.v. nicotine once/day for 14 days. Immediately after the initial nicotine injection and the final day 14 nicotine injection, animals were placed in IR photocell activity chambers for 60 min. Observational time sampling of behavior was also simultaneously performed by an observer blind to treatment condition. An increase in behavioral activity of greater than 120% occurred across the 14-day time course of i.v. nicotine injections. The magnitude of the increase, however, varied as a function of component of activity, gender, and gonadectomy. The behavioral observation data further suggested that the females demonstrated an increased sensitivity to repeated nicotine, as evidenced in a more rapid response, for example, grooming. These behavioral observations were associated with peak arterial levels of nicotine (approximately 25 ng/ml) no greater than the average venous levels of nicotine commonly maintained by cigarette smokers. Repeated i.v. nicotine, at a dose of 50 microg/kg, did not interfere with intact female vaginal cytology or body weight; the failure to detect such alterations were not due to inadequate statistical power. Moreover, no nicotine-treated animals displayed persistent vaginal estrous or were acyclic. Collectively, these data suggest that the i.v. nicotine model may be particularly useful in exploring the gender-dependent effects of nicotine.

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