Background: Tobacco addiction is a relapsing disorder that constitutes a substantial worldwide health problem, with evidence suggesting that nicotine and nicotine-associated stimuli play divergent roles in maintaining smoking behavior in men and women. While animal models of tobacco addiction that utilize nicotine self-administration have become more widely established, systematic examination of the multiple factors that instigate relapse to nicotine-seeking have been limited. Here, we examined nicotine self-administration and subsequent nicotine-seeking in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats using an animal model of self-administration and relapse.
Methods: Rats lever pressed for nicotine (0.03 and 0.05 mg/kg/infusion, IV) during 15 daily 2-h sessions, followed by extinction of lever responding. Once responding was extinguished, we examined the ability of previously nicotine-paired cues (tone+light), the anxiogenic drug yohimbine (2.5mg/kg, IP), a priming injection of nicotine (0.3mg/kg, SC), or combinations of drug+cues to reinstate nicotine-seeking.
Results: Both males and females readily acquired nicotine self-administration and displayed comparable levels of responding and intake at both nicotine doses. Following extinction, exposure to the previously nicotine-paired cues or yohimbine, but not the nicotine-prime alone, reinstated nicotine-seeking in males and females. Moreover, when combined with nicotine-paired cues, both yohimbine and nicotine enhanced reinstatement. No significant sex differences or estrous cycle dependent changes were noted across reinstatement tests.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate the ability to reinstate nicotine-seeking with multiple modalities and that exposure to nicotine-associated cues during periods of a stressful state or nicotine can increase nicotine-seeking.
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