, Volume 231, Issue 18, pp 3745–3755 | Cite as

Enhanced alcohol-seeking behavior by nicotine in the posterior ventral tegmental area of female alcohol-preferring (P) rats: modulation by serotonin-3 and nicotinic cholinergic receptors

  • Sheketha R. HauserEmail author
  • Gerald A. DeehanJr
  • Jamie E. Toalston
  • Richard L. Bell
  • William J. McBride
  • Zachary A. Rodd
Original Investigation



Alcohol and nicotine co-use can reciprocally promote self-administration and drug-craving/drug-seeking behaviors. To date, the neurocircuitry in which nicotine influences ethanol (EtOH) seeking has not been elucidated. Clinical and preclinical research has suggested that the activation of the mesolimbic dopamine system is involved in the promotion of drug seeking. Alcohol, nicotine, and serotonin-3 (5-HT3) receptors interact within the posterior ventral tegmental area (pVTA) to regulate drug reward. Recently, our laboratory has reported that systemic administration of nicotine can promote context-induced EtOH seeking.


The goals of the current study were to (1) determine if microinjections of pharmacologically relevant levels of nicotine into the pVTA would enhance EtOH seeking, (2) determine if coadministration of nicotinic cholinergic receptor antagonist (nACh) or 5-HT3 receptor antagonists would block the ability of nicotine microinjected into the pVTA to promote EtOH seeking, and (3) determine if 5-HT3 receptors in the pVTA can modulate EtOH seeking.


Nicotine (100 and 200 μM) microinjected into the pVTA enhanced EtOH seeking. Coinfusion with 200 μM mecamylamine (nACh antagonist) or 100 and 200 μM zacopride (5-HT3 receptor antagonist) blocked the observed nicotine enhancement of EtOH seeking. The data also indicated that microinjection of 1 μM CPBG (5-HT3 receptor agonist) promotes context-induced EtOH seeking; conversely, microinjection of 100 and 200 μM zacopride alone reduced context-induced EtOH seeking.


Overall, the results show that nicotine-enhanced EtOH-seeking behavior is modulated by 5-HT3 and nACh receptors within the pVTA and that the 5-HT3 receptor system within pVTA may be a potential pharmacological target to inhibit EtOH-seeking behaviors.


Alcohol-seeking behavior Serotonin-3 receptors Nicotinic cholinergic receptors Alcohol-preferring P rat Pavlovian Spontaneous Recovery Zacopride Mecamylamine 



The skillful technical assistance of Tylene Pommer and Victoria McQueen is gratefully acknowledged. This project was supported by research grants AA07611, AA022287, AA020908, AA07462, and AA019366 from NIAAA. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIAAA or NIH.

Conflict of interest

I certify that there is no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheketha R. Hauser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerald A. DeehanJr
    • 1
  • Jamie E. Toalston
    • 1
  • Richard L. Bell
    • 1
  • William J. McBride
    • 1
  • Zachary A. Rodd
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Psychiatric Research, Department of PsychiatryIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA

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