Effects of methyllycaconitine (MLA), an alpha 7 nicotinic receptor antagonist, on nicotine- and cocaine-induced potentiation of brain stimulation reward

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 May;149(4):388-96. doi: 10.1007/s002130000384.


It has been shown that nicotine facilitates intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) reward and that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are of primary importance for its reinforcing and dependence-producing actions. Recently, we have shown that alpha 7 nicotinic receptors in the VTA contribute to both the acute effects of nicotine on the mesolimbic dopamine system, as well as to nicotine withdrawal reactions. However, it is not yet known whether the same receptor conformation is directly involved in the reinforcing actions of nicotine. Here, using the curve-shift method we studied the effects of methyllycaconitine (MLA), a selective alpha 7 receptor antagonist, microinjected (graded doses: 1, 3, 9 micrograms/microliter per side) into the VTA on the rewarding efficacy of lateral hypothalamic self-stimulation and on the systemic nicotine-induced potentiation of brain stimulation reward. MLA did not affect baseline self-stimulation. Nicotine produced a significant reduction in ICSS threshold, without altering maximal rates of responding, while MLA attenuated the effect of nicotine at the two lower doses. Given the reported interaction between nicotine and cocaine at both the neuronal and the behavioral level, we also examined whether alpha 7 receptor antagonism within the VTA can affect the reinforcing action of cocaine, as measured with ICSS. Interestingly, MLA attenuated the reinforcing effect of cocaine in all doses tested, without altering the maximal rate of responding, i.e. the performance of the animals. These results suggest that alpha 7 nAChRs in the VTA are involved in mediating the reinforcing actions of drugs of abuse, such as nicotine and cocaine, and provide evidence that alpha 7 nAChR antagonists may be clinically useful in attenuating the rewarding effects of addictive drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Aconitine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Aconitine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral / drug effects
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral / physiology
  • Male
  • Nicotine / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / drug effects*
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • nicotinic acetylcholine receptor alpha4 subunit
  • methyllycaconitine
  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Aconitine