Dual effects of nicotine on dopamine neurons mediated by different nicotinic receptor subtypes.Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003 Mar; 6(1):1-11.IJ
Burst firing of dopaminergic neurons has been found to represent a particularly effective means of increasing dopamine release in terminal areas as well as activating immediate early genes in dopaminoceptive cells. Spontaneous burst firing is largely controlled by the level of activation of NMDA receptors in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) as a consequence of glutamate released from afferents arising mainly in the prefrontal cortex. Nicotine has been found to effectively increase burst firing of dopaminergic cells. This effect of nicotine may be due to an alpha 7 nicotinic receptor-mediated presynaptic facilitation of glutamate release in the VTA. By the use of in-vivo single-cell recordings and immunohistochemistry we here evaluated the role of alpha 7 nicotinic receptors in nicotine-induced burst firing of dopamine cells in the VTA and the subsequent activation of immediate early genes in dopaminoceptive target areas. Nicotine (0.5 mg/kg s.c.) was found to increase firing rate and burst firing of dopaminergic neurons. In the presence of methyllycaconitine (MLA, 6.0 mg/kg i.p.) nicotine only increased firing rate. Moreover, in the presence of dihydro-beta-erythroidine (DH beta E, 1.0 mg/kg i.p.), an antagonist at non-alpha 7 nicotinic receptors, nicotine produced an increase in burst firing without increasing the firing rate. Nicotine also increased Fos-like immunoreactivity in dopamine target areas, an effect that was antagonized with MLA but not with DH beta E. Our data suggest that nicotine's augmenting effect on burst firing is, indeed, due to stimulation of alpha 7 nicotinic receptors whereas other nicotinic receptors seem to induce an increase in firing frequency.