Effects of nicotine and mecamylamine-induced withdrawal on extracellular dopamine and acetylcholine in the rat nucleus accumbens

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;157(1):105-10. doi: 10.1007/s002130100781.


Rationale: Prior research suggests that high levels of acetylcholine (ACh) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) are associated with aversive states such as morphine withdrawal, but this has not been tested for nicotine withdrawal.

Objectives: The goal was to test the hypothesis that acute nicotine decreases extracellular ACh and increases extracellular dopamine (DA) in the NAc, while withdrawal from nicotine causes an opposite neurochemical imbalance with high extracellular ACh and low DA.

Methods: Rats were prepared with a microdialysis probe in the NAc (primarily the shell region). They received one injection of nicotine (0.5 mg/kg, s.c.) or chronic nicotine (9 mg/kg per day via osmotic minipump).

Results: Naive animals receiving acute nicotine showed a mild, significant increase in both ACh (122% of baseline) and DA (124%). After chronic nicotine administration for 7 days, the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine (1.0 mg/kg, s.c.) precipitated withdrawal with the appearance of somatic signs (teeth chattering and shakes/tremors) and a significant increase in extracellular ACh to 125% of baseline, while extracellular DA decreased to 65%. Control groups receiving saline in place of nicotine or mecamylamine did not show these effects.

Conclusions: Earlier work suggests that the observed release of accumbens ACh and DA in response to acute nicotine administration may be a factor in nicotine-induced suppression of appetite. ACh release during withdrawal, coupled with the decrease in extracellular DA may play a role in the aversive aspects of nicotine withdrawal that contribute to dependency.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mecamylamine / pharmacology*
  • Microdialysis
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / metabolism*


  • Mecamylamine
  • Nicotine
  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine