Contextual renewal of nicotine seeking in rats and its suppression by the cannabinoid-1 receptor antagonist Rimonabant (SR141716A)

Neuropharmacology. 2008 Oct;55(5):712-6. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.003. Epub 2008 Jun 7.


Nicotine-associated paraphernalia such as cigarettes and ashtrays are potent smoking relapse triggers. In addition to these discrete cues, environmental contexts previously associated with smoking elicit strong cigarette craving, indicating that contextual stimuli also contribute to high smoking relapse rates. Nonetheless, little is known about the precise role of these stimuli in smoking relapse and the neuropharmacological mechanisms implicated herein. To address this issue, we determined whether re-exposure to the nicotine self-administration context after long-term extinction reinstates nicotine seeking behavior in rats. Further, we examined the effects of SR141716A (Rimonabant), a selective cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist which has been shown to attenuate cue-induced relapse to nicotine seeking, on context-induced reinstatement of nicotine seeking. Rats were trained to self-administer nicotine intravenously (30microg/kg/infusion). Nicotine infusions were paired with an audiovisual compound stimulus. Subsequently, nose poking behavior was extinguished in the presence of this discrete cue in a context different from the self-administration context. Hereafter, rats were injected with 0, 1, or 3mg/kg Rimonabant (i.p.) prior to re-exposure to either the self-administration or the extinction context. Re-exposure to the self-administration context, but not to the extinction context robustly reinstated responding for the discrete nicotine cues, an effect that was dose-dependently attenuated by Rimonabant. This is the first demonstration of contextual renewal of nicotine seeking in rodents after prolonged withdrawal. Further, our results indicate that the endocannabinoid system is involved in context-induced relapse to nicotine seeking, and as such these data provide further evidence for the use of CB1 antagonists in smoking cessation.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Extinction, Psychological / drug effects
  • Male
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology*
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Rimonabant
  • Self Administration
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / physiopathology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Piperidines
  • Pyrazoles
  • Nicotine
  • Rimonabant