Chronic nicotine alters cannabinoid-mediated locomotor activity and receptor density in periadolescent but not adult male rats

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience








Adolescent; Autoradiography; Cannabinoid; Locomotor activity; Nicotine


A significant number of youths use cigarettes, and more than half of the youths who smoke daily also use illicit drugs. The focus of these studies is on how exposure to nicotine affects subsequent responses to both nicotine and cannabinoids in adolescents compared with adults. We have shown previously that chronic treatment with nicotine produces sensitization to its locomotor-activating effects in female and adult rats but not male adolescent rats. To better understand the effects of nicotine on adolescent and adult rats, rats were injected with nicotine or saline for 7 days and, on day 8, either challenged with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) or the cannabinoid agonist CP 55,940 and tested for locomotor activity, or the brains were removed for quantitative autoradiography studies of the cannabinoid1 receptor. A separate group of rats was treated with nicotine plus the cannabinoid antagonist AM 251 and then challenged with CP 55,940. In adolescent male rats, nicotine administration led to sensitization to the locomotor-decreasing effects of both Δ9-THC and CP 55,940, but in adult male rats, the response to either drug was unchanged compared to controls. The effect of nicotine on CP 55,940-mediated locomotor activity was blocked by co-administration of AM 251 with the nicotine. Further, cannabinoid receptor density was increased in the prelimbic prefrontal cortex, ventral tegmental area, and select regions of the hippocampus in adolescent male rats pretreated with nicotine compared to vehicle-treated controls. There were no significant changes in cannabinoid receptor binding, however, in any of the brain regions examined in adult males pretreated with nicotine. The prelimbic prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus have been shown previously to be involved in stimulant reinforcement; thus it is possible that these changes contribute to the unique behavioral effects of chronic nicotine and subsequent drug administration in adolescents compared with adults. © 2009 ISDN.

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