Ventral hippocampal alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptors and chronic nicotine effects on memory.
Chronic nicotine administration has been repeatedly shown to facilitate working memory function in rats on the radial-arm maze. The critical neural mechanisms for this effect are still being discovered. The nicotinic nature of the chronic nicotine induced memory improvement is supported by the finding that it is blocked by chronic mecamylamine co-infusion. The hippocampus also appears to be critically important. Hippocampal ibotenic acid lesions block the effect. Within the hippocampus, we have found that the alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptor subtype is involved in memory functioning. Acute ventral hippocampal infusions of the alpha4beta2 nicotinic antagonist dihydro-beta-erythroidine (DHbetaE) significantly decreased working memory performance in the radial-arm maze. The aim of the current study was to determine the importance of alpha4beta2 receptors within the ventral hippocampus for the memory enhancing effects of chronic nicotine treatment. Adult female Sprague-Dawley rats were trained on the 8-arm radial maze and were cannulated bilaterally in the ventral hippocampus. Osmotic minipumps administering chronic nicotine at a rate of 5 mg per kg per day were also implanted in the nicotine treatment rats. Control rats received saline-only minipumps. For a period of 4 weeks after surgery, each rat received bilateral hippocampal infusions of 0, 2, 6 and 18 microg per side of DHbetaE and tested for memory performance on the radial-arm maze. Radial-arm maze choice accuracy was impaired by acute hippocampal DHbetaE infusion in a dose-related fashion. This acute hippocampal DHbetaE-induced choice accuracy impairment was eliminated by chronic systemic nicotine infusion. Chronic nicotine in combination with acute vehicle hippocampal infusion was not seen to alter choice accuracy. Response latency was not found to be altered by acute hippocampal DHbetaE in the absence of chronic nicotine administration, but it did attenuate the response latency reduction induced by chronic nicotine infusion. Wet dog shakes were not found to be affected by hippocampal DHbetaE when given without chronic nicotine. Wet dog shakes were significantly increased by chronic nicotine infusion. Intra-hippocampal DHbetaE significantly potentiated this effect. The results from the current study reinforce the hypothesis that ventral hippocampal alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptors are important for memory function. These receptors may also have a role to play in the development of other aspects of behavior associated with chronic nicotine treatment.
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