Increases in alpha4* but not alpha3*/alpha6* nicotinic receptor sites and function in the primate striatum following chronic oral nicotine treatment

J Neurochem. 2006 Feb;96(4):1028-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2005.03646.x. Epub 2006 Jan 12.


Knowledge of the effects of chronic nicotine is critical considering its widespread use in tobacco products and smoking cessation therapies. Although nicotine is well known to up-regulate alpha4* nAChR sites and function in the cortex, its actions in the striatum are uncertain because of the presence of multiple subtypes with potentially opposing effects. We therefore investigated the effect of long-term nicotine treatment on nAChR sites and function in the primate striatum, which offers the advantage of similar proportions of alpha3*/alpha6* and alpha4* nAChRs. Nicotine was given in drinking water, which resembles smoking in its intermittent but chronic delivery. Plasma nicotine and cotinine levels were similar to smokers. Chronic nicotine treatment (> 6 months) enhanced alpha4* nAChR-evoked [(3)H]dopamine release in striatal subregions, with an overall pattern of increase throughout the striatum when normalized to uptake. This increase correlated with elevated striatal alpha4* nAChRs. Under the same conditions, striatal alpha3*/alpha6* nAChR sites and function were decreased or unchanged. These divergent actions of chronic nicotine treatment on alpha4* versus alpha6* nAChRs, as well as effects on dopamine uptake, allow for a complex control of striatal activity to maintain dopaminergic function. Such knowledge is important for understanding nicotine dependence and the consequences of nicotine administration for the treatment of neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Cotinine / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / blood
  • Nicotine / pharmacokinetics
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Putamen / drug effects
  • Putamen / physiology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Saimiri
  • Synaptosomes / metabolism


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine
  • Dopamine