Selective Breeding for High Alcohol Consumption and Response to Nicotine: Locomotor Activity, Dopaminergic in the Mesolimbic System, and Innate Genetic Differences in Male and Female Alcohol-Preferring, Non-Preferring, and Replicate Lines of High-Alcohol Drinking and Low-Alcohol Drinking Rats

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Rationale: There is evidence for a common genetic link between alcohol and nicotine dependence. Rodents selectively bred for high alcohol consumption/responsivity are also more likely to self-administer nicotine than controls. Objectives: The experiments examined the response to systemic nicotine, the effects of nicotine within the drug reward pathway, and innate expression of nicotine-related genes in a brain region regulating drug reward/self-administration in multiple lines of rats selectively bred for high and low alcohol consumption. Methods: The experiments examined the effects of systemic administration of nicotine on locomotor activity, the effects of nicotine administered directly into the (posterior ventral tegmental area; pVTA) on dopamine (DA) release in the nucleus accumbens shell (AcbSh), and innate mRNA levels of acetylcholine receptor genes in the pVTA were determined in 6 selectively bred high/low alcohol consuming and Wistar rat lines. Results: The high alcohol-consuming rat lines had greater nicotine-induced locomotor activity compared to low alcohol-consuming rat lines. Microinjections of nicotine into the pVTA resulted in DA release in the AcbSh with the dose response curves for high alcohol-consuming rats shifted leftward and upward. Genetic analysis of the pVTA indicated P rats expressed higher levels of α2 and β4. Conclusion: Selective breeding for high alcohol preference resulted in a genetically divergent behavioral and neurobiological sensitivity to nicotine. The observed behavioral and neurochemical differences between the rat lines would predict an increased likelihood of nicotine reinforcement. The data support the hypothesis of a common genetic basis for drug addiction and identifies potential receptor targets.