The effects of acute and repeated nicotine administration on the stress response of rat mesoprefrontal dopaminergic pathways were examined. Rats were given daily injections of nicotine (0.15 or 0.60 mg/kg, s.c., freebase) or saline for 4 days, then challenged with either nicotine or saline. A regimen of inescapable electrical footshocks or no footshocks was then administered. Thirty minutes after final injection, rats were sacrificed, brains removed and dopamine (DA) and its metabolite dihydroxy-O-phenylacetic acid (DOPAC) were extracted from medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), nucleus accumbens septi (NAS) and dorsolateral striatum and quantified by high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Acute administration of low dose nicotine (0.15 mg/kg) produced an increase in DA utilization (increased DOPAC/DA ratio) in mPFC and NAS, but not striatum. High dose nicotine (0.60 mg/kg) produced activation in NAS, but not mPFC or striatum. Repeated low dose nicotine pre-treatment produced tolerance to the effects of nicotine challenge in the mPFC, and reduced its effects in NAS. Footshock stress preferentially increased DA utilization in mPFC and associated footshock stress-induced immobility responses, and these were reduced by low, but not high, dose repeated nicotine pre-treatment. Further, a single dose of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) antagonist mecamylamine (MCA) 30 min prior to nicotine challenge dose-dependently blocked the reduction of mesoprefrontal DA stress responsivity and immobility responses produced by repeated nicotine pre-treatment. These results indicate that: (1) there are dose-dependent differential effects of acute and repeated nicotine pre-exposure on regional DA utilization; (2) low, but not high, dose repeated nicotine reduces both the mesoprefrontal DA and behavioral effects of acute footshock stress; and (3) these effects of repeated nicotine may depend on mecamylamine-sensitive nAChR stimulation. These results may have relevance to acute stress and nicotine dependence, particularly in schizophrenic disorders, which have high prevalence rates of co-morbid nicotine dependence, stress-induced symptom exacerbation and prefrontal cortical dysfunction.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.