Nicotine exposure increases the release of glutamate in part through stimulatory effects on pre-synaptic nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). To assess the impact of chronic electronic (e)-cigarette use on these drug dependence pathways, we exposed C57BL/6 mice to three types of inhalant exposures for 3 months; 1) e-cigarette aerosol generated from liquids containing nicotine (ECN), 2) e-cigarette aerosol generated from liquids containing vehicle chemicals without nicotine (Veh), and 3) air only (AC). We investigated the effects of daily e-cigarette exposure on protein levels of α7 nAChR and α4/β2 nAChR, gene expression and protein levels of astroglial glutamate transporters, including glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) and cystine/glutamate antiporter (xCT), in the frontal cortex (FC), striatum (STR) and hippocampus (HIP). We found that chronic inhalation of ECN increased α4/β2 nAChR in all brain regions, and increased α7 nAChR expression in the FC and STR. The total GLT-1 relative mRNA and protein expression were decreased in the STR. Moreover, GLT-1 isoforms (GLT-1a and GLT-1b) were downregulated in the STR in ECN group. However, inhalation of e-cigarette aerosol downregulated xCT expression in STR and HIP compared to AC and Veh groups. ECN group had increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the STR compared to control groups. Finally, mass spectrometry detected high concentrations of the nicotine metabolite, cotinine, in the FC and STR in ECN group. This work demonstrates that chronic inhalation of nicotine within e-cigarette aerosols significantly alters the expression of nAChRs and astroglial glutamate transporters in specific mesocorticolimbic brain regions.
Keywords: E-cigarettes; GLT-1; Nicotine; xCT; α-7 nAChR; α4/β2 nAChR.
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