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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2019 Feb 6;179:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2019.02.002. [Epub ahead of print]

Discriminative stimulus effects of mecamylamine and nicotine in rhesus monkeys: Central and peripheral mechanisms.

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Department of Pharmacodynamics, The University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.
Department of Pharmacodynamics, The University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. Electronic address:


Mecamylamine is a non-competitive nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) antagonist that has been prescribed for hypertension and as an off-label smoking cessation aid. Here, we examined pharmacological mechanisms underlying the interoceptive effects (i.e., discriminative stimulus effects) of mecamylamine (5.6 mg/kg s.c.) and compared the effects of nAChR antagonists in this discrimination assay to their capacity to block a nicotine discriminative stimulus (1.78 mg/kg s.c.) in rhesus monkeys. Central (pempidine) and peripherally restricted nAChR antagonists (pentolinium and chlorisondamine) dose-dependently substituted for the mecamylamine discriminative stimulus in the following rank order potency (pentolinium > pempidine > chlorisondamine > mecamylamine). In contrast, at equi-effective doses based on substitution for mecamylamine, only mecamylamine antagonized the discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine, i.e., pentolinium, chlorisondamine, and pempidine did not. NMDA receptor antagonists produced dose-dependent substitution for mecamylamine with the following rank order potency (MK-801 > phencyclidine > ketamine). In contrast, behaviorally active doses of smoking cessation aids including nAChR agonists (nicotine, varenicline, and cytisine), the smoking cessation aid and antidepressant bupropion, and the benzodiazepine midazolam did not substitute for the discriminative stimulus effects of mecamylamine. These data suggest that peripheral nAChRs and NMDA receptors may contribute to the interoceptive stimulus effects produced by mecamylamine. Based on the current results, the therapeutic use of mecamylamine (i.e., for smoking or to alleviate green tobacco sickness) should be weighed against the potential for mecamylamine to produce interoceptive effects that overlap with another class of abused drugs (i.e., NMDA receptor agonists).


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