Discrimination and self-administration of nicotine by inbred strains of mice

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Jan;141(3):297-306. doi: 10.1007/s002130050837.


These studies aim to characterize the discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine in two inbred strains of mice that differ in many pharmacological responses, and to investigate the feasibility of IV self-administration studies with nicotine in one of the strains. For discrimination studies, three groups of C57BL/6 and one group of DBA/2 mice were trained in a two-lever operant conditioning paradigm with a tandem VI-30" FR-10 schedule of food reinforcement. After 40 training sessions, accuracy reached 57.5, 77.5 and 90.0% in C57BL/6 mice trained with (-)-nicotine (SC) in doses of 0.4, 0.8 and 1.6 mg/kg, respectively (n = 8). DBA/2 mice trained with 0.8 mg/kg nicotine attained similar (73.3 %) accuracy (n = 9). Results from extinction tests showed that all groups of mice yielded orderly dose-response curves for nicotine (0.03-1.6 mg/kg), but stimulus control remained notably weaker for the mice trained with 0.4 mg/kg nicotine than for any other group. Overall rates of responding in the undrugged state were lower for DBA/2 than for C57BL/6 mice; DBA/2 mice were also slightly less sensitive than C57BL/6 mice to the response rate-reducing effect of nicotine. The nicotine antagonist mecamylamine (1.5 mg/kg SC) blocked the discriminative stimulus effect of the training dose of nicotine in all groups. The results of the IV self-administration study suggest that nicotine (0.1 mg/kg) can serve as a positive reinforcer in drug-naive C57BL/6J mice (n = 13). Behaviour maintained by 0.1 mg/kg nicotine injections was significantly greater than behaviour maintained by vehicle injections, and it was maintained under an intermittent schedule of reinforcement (FR4). The methods described provide possible approaches for genetic analyses of strain differences in sensitivity to the discriminative and reinforcing stimulus properties of nicotine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Generalization, Psychological / drug effects
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Mecamylamine / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Self Administration
  • Species Specificity


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Mecamylamine
  • Nicotine