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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1988 Aug;246(2):701-8.

Evidence that mesolimbic dopaminergic activation underlies the locomotor stimulant action of nicotine in rats.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


L-Nicotine stimulates locomotor activity in rats which have had prior experience of the drug. The present study investigated whether this behavioral effect is related to activation of the mesolimbic dopamine system. In the first experiment, l-nicotine (0.2-0.8 mg/kg s.c.) stimulated locomotor activity and increased dopamine utilization in the olfactory tubercle, as judged by the ratio of the concentration of dihydroxyphenylacetic acid to dopamine. In other experiments, l-nicotine (0.1-0.4 mg/kg) stimulated locomotor activity in a dose-related, stereoselective manner; after pretreatment with the l-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase inhibitor NSD-1015, l-nicotine increased 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine/dopamine ratios in olfactory tubercle and nucleus accumbens, suggesting increased dopamine utilization, although absolute concentrations of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine and dopamine were in general not significantly altered. This neurochemical action of l-nicotine was dose-dependent, stereoselective and absent in the caudate-putamen at the doses tested. l-Nicotine did not alter indices of 5-hydroxytryptamine utilization. The locomotor stimulant effect of l-nicotine was abolished by bilateral intra-accumbens microinjection of 6-hydroxydopamine, which depleted markedly mesolimbic terminal areas of dopamine. Thus, in rats which have been chronically treated with l-nicotine, a selective activation of mesolimbic dopamine appears to mediate the locomotor stimulant effect of this drug.

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