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Eur J Pharmacol. 1996 Oct 31;314(3):257-67.

Voluntary ethanol intake in the rat: effects of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor blockade or subchronic nicotine treatment.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Göteborg University, Sweden.


It has been suggested that the mesolimbic dopamine activating and the reinforcing properties of ethanol involve activation of central nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. To test this hypothesis, the effects of two nicotinic receptor antagonists and of subchronic nicotine treatment on voluntary ethanol consumption (ethanol 6% v/v or water) were studied in ethanol low-, medium- or high-preferring Wistar rats. After systemic mecamylamine (2 mg/kg) but not hexamethonium (0 mg/kg) high- but not low-preferring rats decreased their ethanol intake but, however, not their ethanol preference. When subchronically exposed to nicotine (0.35 mg/kg, s.c. daily) medium-preferring rats markedly increased their ethanol intake and preference. This effect lasted for more than 1 week after interrupting nicotine administration. Ethanol intake levels did not correlate with locomotor activity scores after nicotine challenge (0.35 mg/kg, s.c.) or with exploratory locomotor activity. However, exploratory locomotor activity correlated with locomotor activity scores both after nicotine (0.35 mg/kg, s.c.) and ethanol (0.125 g/kg i.p.) challenge. Dopamine release, as indicated by accumulation of 3-methoxytyramine after monoamine oxidase inhibition, was increased in the limbic forebrain (including the nucleus accumbens, the olfactory tubercles, the amygdala and the septum) after acute nicotine (0.35 mg/kg s.c.) or ethanol (2.5 g/kg i.p.) in animals subchronically exposed to nicotine compared to subchronically vehicle-treated controls. The present results further implicate central nicotinic receptors in the molecular events mediating the reinforcing properties of ethanol, and suggest that subchronic nicotine enhances the responsiveness of mesolimbic dopamine neurons both to nicotine and to ethanol. Clinical implications are discussed.

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