Intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) is one type of preclinical procedure for research on pharmacological mechanisms that mediate abuse potential of drugs acting at various targets, including nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). This study compared effects of the nonselective nAChR agonist nicotine (0.032-1.0 mg/kg) and the alpha 4 beta 2-selective nAChR agonist 5-I-A-85380 (0.01-1.0 mg/kg) on ICSS in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Rats were implanted with electrodes targeting the medial forebrain bundle at the level of the lateral hypothalamus and trained to respond under a fixed-ratio 1 schedule for a range of brain stimulation frequencies (158-56 Hz). A broad range of 5-I-A-85380 doses produced an abuserelated increase (or "facilitation") of low ICSS rates maintained by low brain-stimulation frequencies, and this effect was blocked by both the nonselective nAChR antagonist mecamylamine and the selective alpha 4 beta 2 antagonist dihyrdo-beta-erythroidine (DH beta E). Conversely, nicotine produced weaker ICSS facilitation across a narrower range of doses, and higher nicotine doses decreased high rates of ICSS maintained by high brain-stimulation frequencies. The rate-decreasing effects of a high nicotine dose were blocked by mecamylamine but not DH beta E. Chronic nicotine treatment produced selective tolerance to rate-decreasing effects of nicotine but did not alter ICSS rate-increasing effects of nicotine. These results suggest that alpha 4 beta 2 receptors are sufficient to mediate abuse-related rate-increasing effects of nAChR agonists in this ICSS procedure. Conversely, nicotine effects at non-alpha 4 beta 2 nAChRs appear to oppose and limit abuse-related effects mediated by alpha 4 beta 2 receptors, although tolerance can develop to these non-alpha 4 beta 2 effects. Selective alpha 4 beta 2 agonists may have higher abuse potential than nicotine.
Comparison of effects produced by nicotine and the α4β2-selective agonist 5-I-A-85380 on intracranial self-stimulation in rats
Freitas, K., Carroll, F., & Negus, SS. (2016). Comparison of effects produced by nicotine and the α4β2-selective agonist 5-I-A-85380 on intracranial self-stimulation in rats. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 24(1), 65-75. https://doi.org/10.1037/pha0000055