Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior

Responding for a conditioned reinforcer, and its enhancement by nicotine, is blocked by dopamine receptor antagonists and a 5-HT(2C) receptor agonist but not by a 5-HT(2A) receptor antagonist.

PMID 25158104


An aspect of nicotine reinforcement that may contribute to tobacco addiction is the effect of nicotine to enhance the motivational properties of reward-associated cues, or conditioned stimuli (CSs). Several studies have now shown that nicotine enhances responding for a stimulus that has been paired with a natural reinforcer. This effect of nicotine to enhance responding for a conditioned reinforcer is likely due to nicotine-induced enhancements in mesolimbic dopaminergic activity, but this has not been directly assessed. In this study, we assessed roles for dopamine (DA) D1 or D2 receptors, and two serotonin (5-HT) receptor subtypes known to modulate DA activity, the 5-HT2C or 5-HT2A subtypes, on nicotine-enhanced responding for a conditioned reinforcer. Water-restricted rats were exposed to Pavlovian conditioning sessions, where a CS was paired with water delivery. Then, in a second phase, animals were required to perform a novel, lever-pressing response for presentations of the CS as a conditioned reinforcer. Nicotine (0.4 mg/kg) enhanced responding for the conditioned reinforcer. To examine potential roles for dopamine (DA) and serotonin (5-HT) receptors in this effect, separate groups of animals were used to assess the impact of administering the D1 receptor antagonist SCH 23390, D2 receptor antagonist eticlopride, 5-HT2C receptor agonist Ro 60-0175, or 5-HT2A receptor antagonist M100907 on nicotine-enhanced responding for conditioned reinforcement. SCH 23390, eticlopride, and Ro 60-0175 all reduced responding for conditioned reinforcement, and the ability of nicotine to enhance this effect. M100907 did not alter this behavior. Together, these studies indicate that DA D1 and D2 receptors, but not 5-HT2A receptors, contribute to the effect of nicotine to enhance responding for a conditioned reinforcer. This effect can also be modulated by 5-HT2C receptor activation.