Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

Nicotine withdrawal increases stress-associated genes in the nucleus accumbens of female rats in a hormone-dependent manner.

PMID 25762751


Previous work led to our hypothesis that sex differences produced by nicotine withdrawal are modulated by stress and dopamine systems in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). We investigated our hypothesis by studying intact females to determine whether the mechanisms that promote withdrawal are ovarian-hormone mediated. Female rats were ovariectomized (OVX) or received sham surgery (intact) on postnatal day (PND 45-46). On PND 60, they received sham surgery (controls) or were prepared with nicotine pumps. Fourteen days later, half of the rats had their pumps removed (nicotine withdrawal) and the other half received sham surgery (nicotine exposure). Twenty-four hours later, the rats were tested for anxiety-like behavior using the elevated plus maze and light/dark transfer procedures. The NAcc was then dissected for analysis of several genes related to stress (CRF, UCN, CRF-R1, CRF-R2, CRF-BP, and Arrb2) or receptors for dopamine (Drd1 and Drd2) and estradiol (Esr2). During withdrawal, intact females displayed an increase in anxiety-like behavior in both tests and CRF, UCN, and Drd1 gene expression. During nicotine exposure, intact females displayed a decrease in CRF-R1, CRF-R2, Drd3, and Esr2 gene expression and an increase in CRF-BP. This pattern of results was absent in OVX females. Nicotine withdrawal produced an increase in anxiety-like behavior and stress-associated genes in intact females that is distinct from changes produced by nicotine exposure. The latter effects were absent in OVX females, suggesting that stress produced by withdrawal is ovarian-hormone mediated. These findings have important implications towards understanding tobacco use liability among females.