Enhanced nicotine reward in adulthood after exposure to nicotine during early adolescence in mice

Biochem Pharmacol. 2009 Oct 1;78(7):873-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2009.06.099. Epub 2009 Jul 2.


Approximately one million adolescents begin smoking cigarettes every year. Studies show that adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to various aspects of nicotine dependence. Work on rodents demonstrates parallel findings showing that adolescence is a time of changed sensitivity to both rewarding and aversive effects of nicotine. However, it is unclear if these effects are long-lasting and whether they contribute to a lifetime of nicotine addiction. In this study we have characterized the effects of adolescent nicotine exposure on the rewarding properties of nicotine in adulthood using the CPP model. Specifically, we have addressed whether the phase of adolescence (early, middle, or late adolescence) plays a role in the susceptibility to the enhanced rewarding effects of nicotine. Furthermore, we have investigated the long-term effects of adolescent nicotine exposure on nicotine reward in adulthood and have correlated these behavioral adaptations with possible molecular mechanisms. We observed that early adolescence in the mouse is a unique phase for elevated sensitivity to nicotine reward using a CPP model. In addition, exposure to nicotine during this phase, but not during late adolescence or adulthood, resulted in a lasting enhancement of reward in adulthood. Finally, we have shown that early adolescent nicotine exposure significantly elevates nAChR function in adulthood. Overall, we demonstrate that early adolescence represents a period of development, distinct from middle and late adolescence, during which nicotine exposure can cause persistent changes in behavior and molecular adaptations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Conditioning, Psychological / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology
  • Reward*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*


  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine