Gustatory, trigeminal, and olfactory aspects of nicotine intake in three mouse strains

Behav Genet. 2012 Sep;42(5):820-9. doi: 10.1007/s10519-012-9546-x. Epub 2012 May 23.


Studies of nicotine consumption in rodents often intend to investigate nicotine's post-absorptive effects, yet little is known about the pre-absorptive sensory experience of nicotine drinking, including gustatory, trigeminal, and olfactory influences. We conditioned taste aversion (CTA) to nicotine in males of 3 inbred mouse strains: C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, and 129X1/SvJ by repeatedly pairing 150 μg/ml nicotine drinking with lithium chloride injections. Generalization to a variety of bitter, sour, sweet, salty, and irritant solutions and to nicotine odor was then examined. Nicotine CTA generalized to the bitter stimulus quinine hydrochloride and the chemosensory irritant spilanthol in all strains. It also showed strain specificity, generalizing to hydrogen peroxide (an activator of TRPA1) in C57BL/6J mice and to the olfactory cue of nicotine in DBA/2J mice. These behavioral assays demonstrate that the sensory properties of nicotine are complex and include multiple gustatory, irritant, and olfactory components. How these qualities combine at the level of perception remains to be assessed, but sensory factors clearly exert an important influence on nicotine ingestion and their contribution to net intake of nicotine should not be neglected in animal or human studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Generalization, Psychological
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / genetics
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology
  • Smell / genetics*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Taste / genetics*
  • Taste / physiology
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiology*


  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Nicotine