Cotinine is the major metabolite of nicotine and has recently been shown to be self-administered intravenously by rats. However, mechanisms underlying cotinine self-administration remained unknown. Mesolimbic dopamine system projecting from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to nucleus accumbens (NAC) is closely implicated in drug reinforcement, including nicotine. The objective of the current study was to determine potential involvement of mesolimbic dopamine system in cotinine self-administration. An intracranial self-administration experiment demonstrates that cotinine at 0.88 and 1.76 ng/100 nl/infusion was self-infused into the VTA by rats. Rats produced more infusions of cotinine than vehicle and responded more on active than inactive lever during acquisition, reduced responding when cotinine was replaced by vehicle, and resumed responding during re-exposure to cotinine. Microinjection of cotinine at 1.76 ng/100 nl/infusion into the VTA increased extracellular dopamine levels within the NAC. Subcutaneous injection of cotinine at 1 mg/kg also increased extracellular dopamine levels within the NAC. Administration of the D1-like receptor antagonist SCH 23390 attenuated intravenous cotinine self-administration. On the other hand, bupropion, a catecholamine uptake inhibitor, did not significantly alter intravenous cotinine self-administration. These results suggest that activation of mesolimbic dopamine system may represent one cellular mechanism underlying cotinine self-administration. This shared mechanism between cotinine and nicotine suggests that cotinine may play a role in nicotine reinforcement.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Behavioral Neuroscience