Rationale: Nicotine addiction is characterized by two distinct behaviors, chronic compulsive self-administration and the induction of a withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of nicotine consumption.
Objective: To examine if these two processes rely on beta2-containing nicotinic receptors--beta2*nAChRs--we analyzed the behavior of mice lacking these receptors in the two situations.
Results: First, we showed that, in contrast to wild-type (WT) mice, beta2-knockout (beta2-/-) mice exhibit no intra-ventral tegmental area (VTA) nicotine self-administration, whereas their ability to self-administer morphine is intact. However, beta2-/- mice showed some sensitivity to locomotor effects of nicotine, implying an effect of the drug on other nicotinic subtypes. Then, we observed that beta2-/- mice exhibited a normal nicotine withdrawal syndrome, i.e., increased levels of rearing and jumping upon precipitated withdrawal. Thus, the beta2*nAChRs are not involved in the behaviors induced by cessation of nicotine consumption.
Conclusion: Taken together, the present data demonstrated a genetic dissociation of two distinct behavioral patterns associated with nicotine addiction. They further suggested that independent molecular mechanisms underlie these two aspects, offering the possibility of controlling them separately.