Menthol facilitates dopamine-releasing effect of nicotine in rat nucleus accumbens

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2018 Dec;175:47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2018.09.004. Epub 2018 Sep 8.


Menthol is a significant flavoring additive in tobacco products. Accumulating clinical evidence suggests that menthol may promote tobacco smoking and nicotine dependence. Our previous studies demonstrated that menthol enhanced nicotine reinforcement in rats. However, it is unclear whether menthol interacts with nicotine at the neurochemical level. The present study used intracranial microdialysis to examine whether and the ways in which menthol affects nicotine-induced dopamine release in rats in the nucleus accumbens core (NAc), a terminal field of brain reward circuitry. To make comparisons with our previous work that showed an enhancing effect of menthol on nicotine self-administration behavior, male Sprague-Dawley rats were first trained in 20 daily 1-h sessions to press a lever for intravenous nicotine self-administration (15 μg/kg/infusion). Dopamine levels were then measured in the right NAc using intracranial microdialysis coupled with high-performance liquid chromatography. Five minutes before microdialysis, the rats received an intraperitoneal injection of menthol (0, 1, 2.5, and 5 mg/kg), a subcutaneous injection of nicotine (0.2 mg/kg or its vehicle), or both. Menthol alone did not affect dopamine levels in dialysates, whereas nicotine alone elevated dopamine levels. Combined nicotine and menthol administration significantly increased dopamine levels compared with nicotine alone. These data indicate a facilitating effect of menthol on nicotine-induced dopamine release in the NAc. These findings shed light on our understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie the menthol-induced enhancement of nicotine reinforcement.

Keywords: Dopamine; Menthol; Microdialysis; Nicotine; Reinforcement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Synergism
  • Male
  • Menthol / pharmacology*
  • Microdialysis
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Self Administration


  • Menthol
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine