The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics

Effects of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor agonists in assays of acute pain-stimulated and pain-depressed behaviors in rats.

PMID 26359313


Agonists at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) constitute one drug class being evaluated as candidate analgesics. Previous preclinical studies have implicated α4β2 and α7 nAChRs as potential mediators of the antinociceptive effects of (–)-nicotine hydrogen tartrate (nicotine) and other nAChR agonists; however, these studies have relied exclusively on measures of pain-stimulated behavior, which can be defined as behaviors that increase in frequency, rate, or intensity after presentation of a noxious stimulus. Pain is also associated with depression of many behaviors, and drug effects can differ in assays of pain-stimulated versus pain-depressed behavior. Accordingly, this study compared the effects of nicotine, the selective α4/6β2 agonist 5-(123I)iodo-3-[2(S)-2-azetidinylmethoxy]pyridine (5-I-A-85380), and the selective α7 agonist N-(3R)-1-azabicyclo(2.2.2)oct-3-yl-4-chlorobenzamide in assays of pain-stimulated and pain-depressed behavior in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Intraperitoneal injection of dilute lactic acid served as an acute noxious stimulus to either stimulate a stretching response or depress the operant responding, which is maintained by electrical brain stimulation in an intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) procedure. Nicotine produced a dose-dependent, time-dependent, and mecamylamine-reversible blockade of both acid-stimulated stretching and acid-induced depression of ICSS. 5-I-A-85380 also blocked both acid-stimulated stretching and acid-induced depression of ICSS, whereas N-(3R)-1-azabicyclo(2.2.2)oct-3-yl-4-chlorobenzamide produced no effect in either procedure. Both nicotine and 5-I-A-85380 were ≥10-fold more potent in blocking the acid-induced depression of ICSS than in blocking the acid-induced stimulation of stretching. These results suggest that stimulation of α4β2 and/or α6β2 nAChRs may be especially effective to alleviate the signs of pain-related behavioral depression in rats; however, nonselective behavioral effects may contribute to apparent antinociception.