A critical brain area implicated in nicotine dependence is the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN) located in the ventral midbrain and consisting primarily of GABAergic neurons. Previous studies indicate that IPN GABAergic neurons contribute to expression of somatic symptoms of nicotine withdrawal; however, whether IPN neurons are dynamically regulated during withdrawal in vivo and how this may contribute to both somatic and affective withdrawal behavior is unknown. To bridge this gap in knowledge, we expressed GCaMP in IPN GABAergic neurons and used in vivo fiber photometry to record changes in fluorescence, as a proxy for neuronal activity, in male mice during nicotine withdrawal. Mecamylamine-precipitated withdrawal significantly increased activity of IPN GABAergic neurons in nicotine-dependent, but not nicotine-naive mice. Analysis of GCaMP signals time-locked with somatic symptoms including grooming and scratching revealed reduced IPN GABAergic activity during these behaviors, specifically in mice undergoing withdrawal. In the elevated plus maze, used to measure anxiety-like behavior, an affective withdrawal symptom, IPN GABAergic neuron activity was increased during open-arm versus closed-arm exploration in nicotine-withdrawn, but not non-withdrawn mice. Optogenetic silencing IPN GABAergic neurons during withdrawal significantly reduced withdrawal-induced increases in somatic behavior and increased open-arm exploration. Together, our data indicate that IPN GABAergic neurons are dynamically regulated during nicotine withdrawal, leading to increased anxiety-like symptoms and somatic behavior, which inherently decrease IPN GABAergic neuron activity as a withdrawal-coping mechanism. These results provide a neuronal basis underlying the role of the IPN in the expression of somatic and affective behaviors of nicotine withdrawal.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.