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Neurochem Res. 2002 Mar;27(3):253-61.

Receptors in the ventral tegmental area mediating nicotine-induced dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens.

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  • 1Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, New York 10962, USA.


Nicotine or cocaine, when administered intravenously, induces an increase of extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. The nicotine-mediated increase was shown to occur at least in part through increase of the activity of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area. As part of our continuing studies of the mechanisms of nicotine effects in the brain, in particular, effects on reward and cognitive mechanisms, in the present study we examined the role of various receptors in the ventral tegmental area in nicotine and cocaine reward. We assayed inhibition of the increase of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens induced by intravenous nicotine or cocaine administration by antagonists administered into the ventral tegmental area. Nicotine-induced increase of accumbal dopamine release was inhibited by intrategmental nicotinic (mecamylamine), muscarinic (atropine), dopaminergic (D1: SCH 23390, D2: eticlopride), and NMDA glutamatergic (MK 801) and GABAB (saclofen) antagonists, but not by AMPA-kainate (CNQX, GYKI52466) antagonists under our experimental circumstances. The intravenous cocaine-induced increase of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens was inhibited by muscarinic (atropine), dopamine 2 (eticlopride), and GABAB (saclofen) antagonists but not by antagonists to nicotinic (mecamylamine), dopamine D1 (SCH 23390), glutamate (MK 801), or AMPA-kainate (CNQX, GYKI52466) receptors. Antagonists administered in the ventral tegmental area in the present study had somewhat different effects when they were previously administered intravenously. When administered intravenously atropine did not inhibit cocaine effects. The inhibition by atropine may be indirect, since this compound, when administered intrategmentally, decreased basal dopamine levels in the accumbens. The findings indicate that a number of receptors in the ventral tegmental area mediate nicotine-induced dopamine changes in the nucleus accumbens, a major component of the nicotine reward mechanism. Some, but not all, of these receptors in the ventral tegmental area also seem to participate in the reward mechanism of cocaine. The importance of local receptors in the ventral tegmental area was further indicated by the increase in accumbal dopamine levels after intrategmental administration of nicotine or also cocaine.

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