Evidence of cross-tolerance between behavioural effects of nicotine and cocaine in mice

  • Desai R
  • Terry P
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RATIONALE: Studies have reported that chronic exposure to nicotine does not alter the effects of cocaine on locomotor activity, and vice versa. However, the apparent lack of effect of one drug on the behavioural response to the other may be due to an exclusive focus on locomotor activity as the target behaviour.

OBJECTIVE: To test whether repeated pretreatment with nicotine causes tolerance or sensitization to cocaine's effects on diverse behaviours: locomotion, rearing, grooming, and immobility. Similarly, the effects of repeated cocaine treatment on the acute response to nicotine were also tested.

METHODS: Mice were pretreated with 14 injections of nicotine (0.3 mg/kg), cocaine (5 mg/kg) or saline, the injections being given once daily, except for three breaks of two days each. Two days after the final pretreatment injection, mice were given a challenge injection of saline, cocaine (3 or 5 mg/kg) or nicotine (0.3 or 1 mg/kg), and observed in a large test cage for 40 min using a time-sampling procedure.

RESULTS: Repeated administration of either drug produced some tolerance to subsequent challenge with the same dose of the drug. Prior nicotine exposure significantly attenuated cocaine-induced decreases in grooming and increases in rearing, but did not significantly affect other behaviours. In contrast, prior cocaine exposure failed to alter nicotine's effects on any behaviour.

CONCLUSIONS: Cross-tolerance between nicotine and cocaine (but not vice-versa) can be demonstrated if several behaviours are observed; measures of locomotor activity are less sensitive to the effect. The asymmetrical pattern of cross-tolerance may be due to differential inhibition of dopamine uptake by the two drugs.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Cocaine
  • Grooming
  • Locomotor activity
  • Mice
  • Nicotine
  • Rearing
  • Sensitization
  • Tolerance

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  • Rajeev I. Desai

  • Philip Terry

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