Nicotine exposure in adolescence alters the response of serotonin systems to nicotine administered subsequently in adulthood.
Developmental nicotine exposure produces lasting changes in serotonin (5-HT) function. We gave nicotine to adolescent rats (postnatal days, PD, 30-47), simulating plasma levels in smokers, and then examined the subsequent effects of nicotine given again in young adulthood (PD 90-107), focusing on 5-HT(1A) and 5-HT(2) receptors and the 5-HT transporter during nicotine treatment (PD 105) and withdrawal (PD 110, 120, 130), and long-term changes (PD 180). Adolescent nicotine exposure by itself evoked long-term elevations in cerebrocortical binding parameters in males that emerged in young adulthood. Nicotine given in adulthood produced transient elevations in 5-HT receptor expression in both males and females during withdrawal, and persistent upregulation in the male cerebral cortex. In contrast, females showed decrements in cerebrocortical 5-HT receptors by PD 180. Adolescent nicotine exposure altered the responses to nicotine given in adulthood, sensitizing the initial effects and changing both the withdrawal response and long-term actions. Our results thus provide mechanistic evidence that nicotine exposure, during the period in which nearly all smokers begin to use tobacco, reprograms the future response of 5-HT systems to nicotine.
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