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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1999 Nov;291(2):884-92.

Nicotine infusion modulates immobilization stress-triggered induction of gene expression of rat catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York 10595, USA.


The relationship between nicotine and stress is complex and paradoxical. Although people claim they smoke because it relaxes them, nicotine can trigger some of the effects observed with stress, including the release and synthesis of the catecholamines and their biosynthetic enzymes. This study examined one aspect of this confusing relationship between nicotine and stress. Multiple injections of nicotine bitartrate (5 mg/kg) elevated mRNA levels for the catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH), and phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase, and of preproneuropeptide Y in rat adrenal medulla more than did 1 mg/kg of nicotine bitartrate. In the locus ceruleus, substantia nigra, and ventral tegmental area both doses equally induced TH mRNA levels. Nicotine infusion (15 mg/kg/day) did not affect adrenal mRNA levels for any of the genes of interest and did not increase plasma corticosterone levels. However, in rats pre-exposed to nicotinic infusions, the response to a single immobilization (IMO) stress was markedly attenuated with respect to changes in adrenomedullary TH, DBH, and phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase mRNA levels and in c-Fos protein levels. In the central nervous system, the chronic infusion of nicotine prevented the induction of TH mRNA by repeated IMO stress in the ventral tegmental area (but not in substantia nigra) and of DBH mRNA by single IMO in the locus ceruleus. These findings may explain some of the complex interactions between stress and exposure to nicotine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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