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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44149. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044149. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Environmental enrichment alters nicotine-mediated locomotor sensitization and phosphorylation of DARPP-32 and CREB in rat prefrontal cortex.

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Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.


Exposure within an environmental enrichment paradigm results in neurobiological adaptations and decreases the baseline of locomotor activity. The current study determined activation of DARPP-32 (dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein-32) and CREB (cAMP response element binding protein), and locomotor activity in rats raised in enriched (EC), impoverished (IC), and standard (SC) conditions following repeated administration of nicotine or saline. In the saline-control group, the basal phosphorylation state of DARPP-32 at Threonine-34 site (pDARPP-32 Thr34) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was lower in EC compared to IC and SC rats, which was positively correlated with their respective baseline activities. While nicotine (0.35 mg/kg, freebase) produced locomotor sensitization across all housing conditions when the nicotine-mediated locomotor activity was expressed as a percent change from their respective saline control, EC rats displayed greater sensitization to nicotine than IC and SC rats. Consistent with the behavioral findings, repeated nicotine injection increased pDARPP-32 Thr34 in PFC of EC and IC rats and in nucleus accumbens of EC rats; however, the magnitude of change from saline control in nicotine-induced enhancement of pDARPP-32 Thr34 in PFC was strikingly increased in EC rats relative to IC rats. Moreover, EC rats had lower basal phosphorylation levels of CREB at serine 133 in PFC and nucleus accumbens compared to IC and SC rats, whereas the nicotine-induced increase in phosphorylated CREB-Ser133 was more pronounced in PFC of EC rats relative to IC and SC rats. Collectively, these findings suggest innovative insights into advancing our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of enrichment-induced changes in the motivational effects of nicotine, and aiding in the identification of new therapeutic strategies for tobacco smokers.

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