The role of nicotinic receptor beta-2 subunits in nicotine discrimination and conditioned taste aversion

Neuropharmacology. 2002 Mar;42(4):530-9. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3908(01)00194-0.


The subtypes of nicotinic receptors at which the behavioural effects of nicotine originate are not fully understood. These experiments use mice lacking the beta2 subunit of nicotinic receptors to investigate its role in nicotine discrimination and conditioned taste aversion (CTA). Wild-type and mutant mice were trained either in a two-lever nicotine discrimination procedure using a tandem schedule of food reinforcement, or in a counterbalanced two-flavour CTA procedure. Rates of lever-pressing of wild-type and mutant mice did not differ. Wild-type mice acquired discrimination of nicotine (0.4 or 0.8 mg/kg) rapidly and exhibited steep dose-response curves. Mutant mice failed to acquire these nicotine discriminations and exhibited flat dose-response curves. Both wild-type and mutant mice acquired discrimination of nicotine (1.6 mg/kg) although discrimination performance was weak in the mutants. Nicotine initially reduced response rates in wild-type and mutant mice, and tolerance developed to this effect in each genotype. Both genotypes acquired discrimination of morphine (3 mg/kg) with similar degrees of accuracy, and dose-response curves for morphine discrimination in the two genotypes were indistinguishable. Nicotine produced dose-related CTA in both genotypes, but the magnitude of the effect was less in the mutants than in the wild-type controls. It is concluded that nicotinic receptors containing the beta2 subunit play a major role in the discriminative stimulus and taste aversion effects of nicotine that may reflect psychological aspects of tobacco dependence. Such receptors appear to have a less crucial role in the response-rate, reducing effects of nicotine and in nicotine tolerance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / deficiency*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste / physiology


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • nicotinic receptor beta2
  • Nicotine