The influx of Ca2+ through calcium-permeable nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) leads to activation of various downstream processes that may be relevant to nicotine-mediated behaviors. The calcium activated protein, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IV (CaMKIV) phosphorylates the downstream transcription factor cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB), which mediates nicotine responses; however the role of CaMKIV in nicotine dependence is unknown. Given the proposed role of CaMKIV in CREB activation, we hypothesized that CaMKIV might be a crucial molecular component in the development of nicotine dependence. Using male CaMKIV genetically modified mice, we found that nicotine reward is attenuated in CaMKIV knockout (−/−) mice, but cocaine reward is enhanced in these mice. CaMKIV protein levels were also increased in the nucleus accumbens of C57Bl/6 mice after nicotine reward. In a nicotine withdrawal assessment, anxiety-related behavior, but not somatic signs or the hyperalgesia response are attenuated in CaMKIV −/− mice. To complement our animal studies, we also conducted a human genetic association analysis and found that variants in the CaMKIV gene are associated with a protective effect against nicotine dependence. Taken together, our results support an important role for CaMKIV in nicotine reward, and suggest that CaMKIV has opposing roles in nicotine and cocaine reward. Further, CaMKIV mediates affective, but not physical nicotine withdrawal signs, and has a protective effect against nicotine dependence in human genetic association studies. These findings further indicate the importance of calcium-dependent mechanisms in mediating behaviors associated with drugs of abuse.
Jackson, K. J., Sanjakdar, S. S., Chen, X., & Damaj, M. I. (2012). Nicotine Reward and Affective Nicotine Withdrawal Signs Are Attenuated in Calcium/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase IV Knockout Mice. PLoS ONE, 7(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051154