Sex and ovarian hormones influence vulnerability and motivation for nicotine during adolescence in rats

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2009 Nov;94(1):43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2009.07.004. Epub 2009 Jul 18.


The purpose of this study was to examine sex differences in sensitivity to nicotine's reinforcing effects during adolescence, a hormone transition phase characterized by rapid and marked changes in levels of gonadal hormones. Male and female rats were trained to self-administer nicotine (5 or 10 microg/kg/infusion) under a fixed-ratio 1 schedule beginning on postnatal day 30. Following acquisition, responding was assessed under a progressive-ratio schedule until postnatal day 45 with blood sampling occurring prior to the first 5 sessions in order to determine the relationship between gonadal hormones (i.e., estradiol and progesterone in females and testosterone in males) and responding for nicotine. Under low dose conditions, a greater percentage of females than males acquired nicotine self-administration. Under progressive-ratio testing conditions, although adolescent females and males initially responded at similar levels, by the end of the adolescent testing period, females responded at higher levels than males to obtain nicotine infusions. Levels of responding under the progressive-ratio schedule were negatively associated with progesterone and positively associated with the ratio of estradiol to progesterone. These findings demonstrate an enhanced sensitivity in adolescent females as compared to adolescent males to nicotine's reinforcing effects with evidence implicating circulating hormone levels as modulating this sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Body Weight
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrous Cycle
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Male
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Self Administration
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / metabolism*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • Nicotine