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1.  Varenicline enhances dopamine release facilitation more than nicotine after long-term nicotine treatment and withdrawal 
An important factor contributing to the high relapse rates among smokers is nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Multiple studies suggest that decreased dopamine release in nucleus accumbens plays a key role in withdrawal. However, recent reports showed that long-term nicotine exposure itself also decreases accumbal dopamine release, suggesting that additional mechanisms are involved in withdrawal. Here, we used real-time cyclic voltammetry in brain slices containing the nucleus accumbens to further elucidate the changes in dopamine release linked to nicotine withdrawal. Rats received vehicle or nicotine via the drinking water for 2–3 months. Studies assessing the expression of somatic signs in vehicle-treated, nicotine-treated, and 24-h nicotine withdrawn rats showed that nicotine withdrawal led to a significant increase in somatic signs. Subsequent voltammetry studies showed that long-term nicotine decreased single-pulse-stimulated dopamine release via an interaction at α6β2* receptors. Nicotine withdrawal led to a partial recovery in α6β2* receptor-mediated release. In addition, long-term nicotine treatment alone increased dopamine release paired-pulse ratios and this was partially reversed with nicotine removal. We then evaluated the effect of bath-applied nicotine and varenicline on dopamine release. Nicotine and varenicline both decreased single-pulse-stimulated release in vehicle-treated, nicotine-treated, and nicotine withdrawn rats. However, bath-applied varenicline increased paired-pulse ratios to a greater extent than nicotine during long-term nicotine treatment and after its withdrawal. Altogether these data suggest that nicotine withdrawal is associated with a partial restoration of dopamine release measures to control levels and that varenicline's differential modulation of dopamine release may contribute to its mechanism of action.
PMCID: PMC4317236
Acetylcholine; addiction; nicotinic receptor; voltammetry
2.  Long-term nicotine treatment downregulates α6β* nicotinic receptor expression and function in nucleus accumbens 
Journal of neurochemistry  2013;127(6):10.1111/jnc.12442.
Long-term nicotine exposure induces alterations in dopamine transmission in nucleus accumbens (NAcc) that sustain the reinforcing effects of smoking. One approach to understand the adaptive changes that arise involves measurement of endogenous dopamine release using voltammetry. We therefore treated rats for 2-3 months with nicotine and examined alterations in nAChR subtype expression and electrically-evoked dopamine release in rat NAcc shell, a region key in addiction. Long-term nicotine treatment selectively decreased stimulated α6β2* nAChR-mediated dopamine release compared to vehicle-treated rats. It also reduced α6β2* nAChRs, suggesting the receptor decline may contribute to the functional loss. This decreased response in release after chronic nicotine treatment was still partially sensitive to the agonist nicotine. Studies with an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor demonstrated that the response was also sensitive to increased endogenous acetylcholine. However, unlike the agonists, nAChR antagonists decreased dopamine release only in vehicle- but not nicotine-treated rats. Since antagonists function by blocking the action of acetylcholine, their ineffectiveness suggests that reduced acetylcholine levels partly underlie the dampened α6β2* nAChR-mediated function in nicotine-treated rats. Since long-term nicotine modifies dopamine release by decreasing α6β2* nAChRs and their function, these data suggest that interventions that target this subtype may be useful for treating nicotine dependence.
PMCID: PMC3859710  PMID: 23992036
addiction; nicotine; nicotinic receptors; nucleus accumbens; voltammetry
3.  Nicotine-mediated improvement in L-dopa-induced dyskinesias in MPTP-lesioned monkeys is dependent on dopamine nerve terminal function 
Neurobiology of disease  2012;50:30-41.
L-Dopa-induced dyskinesias (LIDs) are abnormal involuntary movements that develop with long term L-dopa therapy for Parkinson’s disease. Studies show that nicotine administration reduced LIDs in several parkinsonian animal models. The present work was done to understand the factors that regulate the nicotine-mediated reduction in LIDs in MPTP-lesioned nonhuman primates. To approach this, we used two groups of monkeys, one with mild-moderate and the other with more severe parkinsonism rendered dyskinetic using L-dopa. In mild-moderately parkinsonian monkeys, nicotine pretreatment (300 μg/ml via drinking water) prevented the development of LIDs by ~75%. This improvement was maintained when the nicotine dose was lowered to 50 μg/ml but was lost with nicotine removal. Nicotine re-exposure again decreased LIDs. By contrast, nicotine treatment did not reduce LIDs in monkeys with more severe parkinsonism. We next determined how nicotine’s ability to reduce LIDs correlated with lesion-induced changes in the striatal dopamine transporter and 3H-dopamine release in these two groups of monkeys. The striatal dopamine transporter was reduced to 54% and 28% of control in mild-moderately and more severely parkinsonian monkeys, respectively. However, basal, K+, α4β2* and α6β2* nAChR-evoked 3H-dopamine release were near control levels in striatum of mild-moderately parkinsonian monkeys. By contrast, these same release measures were reduced to a significantly greater extent in striatum of more severely parkinsonian monkeys. Thus, nicotine best improves LIDs in lesioned monkeys in which striatal dopamine transmission is still relatively intact. These data suggest that nicotine treatment would most effectively reduce LIDs in patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3685405  PMID: 23009753
Dopamine; L-dopa-induced dyskinesias; Nicotine; Nicotinic receptors; Parkinson’s disease
4.  Targeting nicotinic receptors for Parkinson's disease therapy 
A promising target for improved therapeutics in Parkinson's disease is the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR). nAChRs are widely distributed throughout the brain, including the nigrostriatal system, and exert important modulatory effects on numerous behaviors. Accumulating evidence suggests that drugs such as nicotine that act at these sites may be of benefit for Parkinson's disease treatment. Recent work indicates that a potential novel therapeutic application is the use of nicotine to reduce levodopa-induced dyskinesias, a side effect of dopamine replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease. Several clinical trials also report that nicotine may diminish disease symptoms. Not only may nAChR drugs provide symptomatic improvement, but they may also attenuate the neurodegenerative process itself. This latter idea is supported by epidemiological studies which consistently demonstrate a ~50% reduced incidence of Parkinson's disease in smokers. Experimental work in parkinsonian animal models suggests that nicotine in tobacco may contribute to this protection. These combined findings suggest that nicotine and nAChR drugs offer the possibility of improved therapeutics for Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3748273  PMID: 21838678
Nicotine; nicotinic receptors; levodopa; dyskinesias; neuroprotection; parkinsonian; Parkinson's disease
5.  Nicotine as a potential neuroprotective agent for Parkinson’s disease 
Converging research efforts suggest that nicotine and other drugs that act at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) may be beneficial in the management of Parkinson’s disease. This idea initially stemmed from the results of epidemiological studies which demonstrate that smoking is associated with a decreased incidence of Parkinson’s disease. The subsequent finding that nicotine administration protected against nigrostriatal damage in parkinsonian animal models led to the idea that nicotine in tobacco products may contribute to this apparent protective action. Nicotine most likely exerts its effects by interacting at nAChRs. Accumulating research indicates that multiple subtypes, including α4β2, α6β2 and/or α7 containing nAChRs, may be involved. Stimulation of nAChRs initially activates various intracellular transduction pathways primarily via alterations in calcium signaling. Consequent adaptations in immune responsiveness and trophic factors may ultimately mediate nicotine’s ability to reduce/halt the neuronal damage that arises in Parkinson’s disease. In addition to a potential neuroprotective action, nicotine also has anti-depressant properties and improves attention/cognition. Altogether, these findings suggest that nicotine and nAChR drugs represent promising therapeutic agents for the management of Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3685410  PMID: 22693036
Neuroprotection; Nicotine; Nicotinic; Nigrostriatal damage; Parkinson’s disease
6.  Role of alpha6 nicotinic receptors in CNS dopaminergic function; relevance to addiction and neurological disorders 
Biochemical Pharmacology  2011;82(8):873-882.
Although a relative newcomer to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) family, substantial evidence suggests that α6 containing nAChRs play a key role in CNS function. This subtype is unique in its relatively restricted localization to the visual system and catecholaminergic pathways. These latter include the mesolimbic and nigrostriatal dopaminergic systems, which may account for the involvement of α6 containing nAChRs in the rewarding properties of nicotine and in movement. Here, we review the literature on the role of α6 containing nAChRs with a focus on the striatum and nucleus accumbens. This includes molecular, electrophysiological and behavioral studies in control and lesioned animal models, as well as in different genetic models. Converging evidence suggest that the major α6 containing nAChRs subtypes in the nigrostriatal and mesolimbic dopamine system are the α6β2β3 and α6α4β2β3 nAChR populations. They appear to have a dominant role in regulating dopamine release, with consequent effects on nAChR-modulated dopaminergic functions such as reinforcement and motor behavior. Altogether these data suggest that drugs directed to α6 containing nAChRs may be of benefit for the treatment of addiction and for neurological disorders with locomotor deficits such as Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3264546  PMID: 21684266
Addiction; Cyclic voltammetry; Nucleus accumbens; Parkinson’s disease; Striatum
7.  Pre-synaptic dopaminergic compensation after moderate nigrostriatal damage in non-human primates 
Journal of Neurochemistry  2008;105(5):1861-1872.
Despite a dramatic loss of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease, clinical symptoms only arise with 70–80% reduction of striatal dopamine. The mechanisms responsible for this functional compensation are currently under debate. Although initial studies showed an enhanced pre-synaptic dopaminergic function with nigrostriatal degeneration, more recent work suggests that functional compensation is not dopamine-mediated. To address this issue, we used cyclic voltammetry to directly measure endogenous dopamine release from striatal slices of control monkeys and animals with a moderate or severe MPTP-induced dopaminergic lesion. The moderately lesioned monkeys were asymptomatic, while the severely lesioned animals were parkinsonian. In monkeys with a moderate lesion, a 300% increase was obtained in endogenous striatal dopamine release. In contrast, in striatal slices from severely lesioned animals, a small % of evoked dopamine signals were similar in amplitude to control while the greater majority were undetectable. These findings suggest that pre-synaptic dopaminergic compensation develops in residual dopaminergic terminals with moderate lesioning, but that this response is lost with severe nigrostriatal damage. Such an interpretation is supported by the results of dopamine turnover studies. This enhanced pre-synaptic dopaminergic activity may be important in maintaining normal motor function during the initial stages of Parkinson’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3264543  PMID: 18248617
compensation; dopamine release; MPTP; non-human primate; Parkinson’s disease; voltammetry
8.  Cortical nNOS neurons co-express the NK1 receptor and are depolarized by Substance P in multiple mammalian species 
We have previously demonstrated that Type I neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS)-expressing neurons are sleep-active in the cortex of mice, rats, and hamsters. These neurons are known to be GABAergic, to express Neuropeptide Y (NPY) and, in rats, to co-express the Substance P (SP) receptor NK1, suggesting a possible role for SP in sleep/wake regulation. To evaluate the degree of co-expression of nNOS and NK1 in the cortex among mammals, we used double immunofluorescence for nNOS and NK1 and determined the anatomical distribution in mouse, rat, and squirrel monkey cortex. Type I nNOS neurons co-expressed NK1 in all three species although the anatomical distribution within the cortex was species-specific. We then performed in vitro patch clamp recordings in cortical neurons in mouse and rat slices using the SP conjugate tetramethylrhodamine-SP (TMR-SP) to identify NK1-expressing cells and evaluated the effects of SP on these neurons. Bath application of SP (0.03–1 μM) resulted in a sustained increase in firing rate of these neurons; depolarization persisted in the presence of tetrodotoxin. These results suggest a conserved role for SP in the regulation of cortical sleep-active neurons in mammals.
PMCID: PMC3367498  PMID: 22679419
nitric oxide; NOS-1; bNOS; sleep homeostasis; cerebral cortex; neurogliaform; tac1; tac1r
9.  Multiple roles for nicotine in Parkinson’s disease 
Biochemical pharmacology  2009;78(7):677.
There exists a remarkable diversity of neurotransmitter compounds in the striatum, a pivotal brain region in the pathology of Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder characterized by rigidity, tremor and bradykinesia. The striatal dopaminergic system, which is particularly vulnerable to neurodegeneration in this disorder, appears to be the major contributor to these motor problems. However, numerous other neurotransmitter systems in the striatum most likely also play a significant role, including the nicotinic cholinergic system. Indeed, there is an extensive anatomical overlap between dopaminergic and cholinergic neurons, and acetylcholine is well known to modulate striatal dopamine release both in vitro and in vivo. Nicotine, a drug that stimulates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), influences several functions relevant to Parkinson’s disease. Extensive studies in parkinsonian animals show that nicotine protects against nigrostriatal damage, findings that may explain the well-established decline in Parkinson’s disease incidence with tobacco use. In addition, recent work shows that nicotine reduces L-dopa-induced abnormal involuntary movements, a debilitating complication of L-dopa therapy for Parkinson’s disease. These combined observations suggest that nAChR stimulation may represent a useful treatment strategy for Parkinson’s disease for neuroprotection and symptomatic treatment. Importantly, only selective nAChR subtypes are present in the striatum including the α4β2*, α6β2* and α7 nAChR populations. Treatment with nAChR ligands directed to these subtypes may thus yield optimal therapeutic benefit for Parkinson’s disease, with a minimum of adverse side effects.
PMCID: PMC2815339  PMID: 19433069
L-Dopa-induced dyskinesias; Neuroprotection; Nicotine; Nicotinic; Nigrostriatal; Parkinson’s disease
10.  Chronic nicotine treatment differentially regulates striatal α6α4β2* and α6(nonα4)β2* nAChR expression and function 
Molecular pharmacology  2008;74(3):844-853.
Nicotine treatment has long been associated with alterations in α4β2* nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) expression that modify dopaminergic function. However, the influence of chronic nicotine treatment on the α6β2* nAChR, a subtype specifically localized on dopaminergic neurons, is less clear. Here we used voltammetry, as well as receptor binding studies, to identify the effects of nicotine on striatal α6β2* nAChR function and expression. Chronic nicotine via drinking water enhanced non-burst and burst endogenous dopamine release from rat striatal slices. In control animals, α6β2* nAChR blockade with α-conotoxinMII (α-CtxMII) decreased release with non-burst stimulation but not with burst firing. These data in control animals suggest that varying stimulus frequencies differentially regulate α6β2* nAChR-evoked dopamine release. In contrast, in nicotine-treated rats, α6β2* nAChR blockade elicited a similar pattern of dopamine release with non-burst and burst firing. To elucidate the α6β2* nAChR subtypes altered with chronic nicotine treatment, we used the novel α-CtxMII analogue E11A, in combination with α4 nAChR knockout mice. 125I-α-CtxMII competition studies in striatum of knockout mice showed that nicotine treatment decreased the α6α4β2* subtype, but increased the α6(nonα4)β2* nAChR population. These data indicate that α6β2* nAChR-evoked dopamine release in nicotine-treated rats is mediated by the α6(nonα4)β2* nAChR subtype, and suggest that the α6α4β2* nAChR and/or α4β2* nAChR contribute to the differential effect of higher frequency stimulation on dopamine release under control conditions. Thus, α6β2* nAChR subtypes may represent important targets for smoking cessation therapies and neurological disorders involving these receptors such as Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC2847502  PMID: 18583454

Results 1-10 (10)