Sensitization of the mesoaccumbens dopamine response to nicotine

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1998 Apr;59(4):1021-30. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(97)00537-6.


This article reviews the evidence that pretreatment with nicotine causes a regionally selective sensitization of its stimulatory effects on a pathway, the mesoaccumbens dopamine (DA) system, which has been implicated in the locomotor stimulant response to nicotine and its ability to reinforce self-administration. The sensitization evoked by daily injections of nicotine is associated with a regionally selective downregulation of the control of mesoaccumbens DA neurons by inhibitory autoreceptors and depends upon co-stimulation of NMDA glutamatergic receptors. It is suggested that the sensitization is related to enhanced burst firing of mesoaccumbens neurons, which results in an enhancement of DA release into the extracellular space between the cells where it acts upon putative extrasynaptic dopamine receptors. The studies with NMDA receptor antagonists revealed a dissociation between the expression of sensitized mesoaccumbens DA and locomotor responses to nicotine. It is proposed, therefore, that the sensitized mesoaccumbens DA responses to nicotine may be implicated in psychopharmacological responses to drug concerned more closely with nicotine dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nomifensine / pharmacology
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nomifensine
  • Nicotine
  • Dopamine