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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2006 Jul;318(1):381-8. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Differential regulation of mesolimbic alpha 3/alpha 6 beta 2 and alpha 4 beta 2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor sites and function after long-term oral nicotine to monkeys.

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The Parkinson's Institute, 1170 Morse Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089-1605, and Department of Radiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Because the mesolimbic dopamine system plays a critical role in nicotine addiction/reinforcement and because nicotinic receptors regulate dopamine release, we initiated a study to evaluate the long-term effects of nicotine (>6 months at the final dose) on nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) sites and function in the nucleus accumbens of nonhuman primates. Nicotine was given in the drinking water as this mode of administration is long-term but intermittent, thus resembling smoking in this aspect. We determined the effects of nicotine treatment on function and binding of the alpha3/alpha6beta2* and alpha4beta2* nAChRs subtypes in nucleus accumbens, a region directly implicated in the addictive effects of nicotine. To evaluate function, we measured nicotine and K+-evoked [3H]dopamine release from nucleus accumbens synaptosomes. Changes in alpha4beta2* and alpha3/alpha6beta2* nAChRs were measured using 125I-epibatidine, [125I]A85380 [5-[125I]iodo-3(2(S)-azetidinylmethoxy) pyridine] and 125I-alpha-conotoxin MII autoradiography. Chronic nicotine treatment, which led to plasma nicotine levels in the range of smokers, significantly increased nucleus accumbens alpha4beta2* nAChR sites and function compared with control. By contrast, this treatment did not significantly change alpha3/alpha6beta2* nAChR sites or evoked dopamine release in this region compared with control. Thus, these data are distinct from previous results in striatum in which the same nicotine treatment paradigm decreased striatal alpha3/alpha6beta2* nAChR sites and function. The finding that long-term nicotine treatment selectively modulates alpha4beta2* and not alpha3/alpha6beta2* nAChR expression in primate nucleus accumbens is consistent with the results of studies in nicotinic receptor mutant mice implicating the alpha4beta2* nAChR subtype in nicotine-mediated addiction.

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