GLP-1 acts on habenular avoidance circuits to control nicotine intake

Nat Neurosci. 2017 May;20(5):708-716. doi: 10.1038/nn.4540. Epub 2017 Apr 3.


Tobacco smokers titrate their nicotine intake to avoid its noxious effects, sensitivity to which may influence vulnerability to tobacco dependence, yet mechanisms of nicotine avoidance are poorly understood. Here we show that nicotine activates glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS). The antidiabetic drugs sitagliptin and exenatide, which inhibit GLP-1 breakdown and stimulate GLP-1 receptors, respectively, decreased nicotine intake in mice. Chemogenetic activation of GLP-1 neurons in NTS similarly decreased nicotine intake. Conversely, Glp1r knockout mice consumed greater quantities of nicotine than wild-type mice. Using optogenetic stimulation, we show that GLP-1 excites medial habenular (MHb) projections to the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN). Activation of GLP-1 receptors in the MHb-IPN circuit abolished nicotine reward and decreased nicotine intake, whereas their knockdown or pharmacological blockade increased intake. GLP-1 neurons may therefore serve as 'satiety sensors' for nicotine that stimulate habenular systems to promote nicotine avoidance before its aversive effects are encountered.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / physiology*
  • Exenatide
  • Female
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / physiology*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / agonists
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / genetics
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / physiology
  • Habenula / physiology*
  • Interpeduncular Nucleus / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Nicotine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Self Stimulation
  • Sitagliptin Phosphate / pharmacology
  • Solitary Nucleus / physiology
  • Venoms / pharmacology


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Peptides
  • Venoms
  • Nicotine
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Exenatide
  • Sitagliptin Phosphate