Adolescent nicotine exposure sensitizes cue-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking in rats bred for high and low saccharin intake

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Background: Environmental factors such as early drug exposure influence drug abuse vulnerability, and evidence also suggests that drug abuse is highly heritable. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether environmental and genetic factors interact to produce additive drug abuse vulnerability. Methods: An animal model of relapse was used to examine the effects of adolescent nicotine exposure on adult cocaine seeking in rats bred for high (HiS) and low (LoS) saccharin intake. Rats from HiS and LoS progenitor lines received s.c. injections of nicotine for 10 days (postnatal days 22-31). Rats were then allowed to reach adulthood and were trained to lever press for cocaine infusions. During each self-administration session, the house light (HL) was illuminated and each lever press activated a set of lights adjacent to the lever (LL). Following cocaine self-administration, the HL and LL were deactivated, cocaine solutions were replaced with saline, and rats extinguished lever pressing. Subsequently, rats were tested under a multi-component reinstatement procedure consisting of: (1) cue-induced reinstatement with LL alone and the HL presented alone, (2) cocaine-induced reinstatement without LL and HL present, (3) and cocaine-induced reinstatement with LL present. Results: The results indicated that adolescent nicotine exposure sensitized the reinstatement of cocaine seeking during adulthood in HiS (but not LoS) rats when lever pressing resulted in LL cue presentations. In addition, following administration of the cocaine priming injection, rats exposed to nicotine (vs. saline) during adolescence (LoS and HiS) engaged in more cocaine seeking under the cocaine-primed reinstatement condition when lever pressing illuminated the LL. Conclusion: These results suggest that drug abuse vulnerability may be a function of early life exposure to drugs of abuse in addition to genetic influences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-72
Number of pages5
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) grants, R01 DA 003240-25 , R01 DA019942-2 , K05 015267-07 (MEC) and F31 DA 023301-02 (JJA). NIDA had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in writing; nor in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


  • Adolescence
  • Cocaine
  • Nicotine
  • Rat
  • Relapse
  • Selective breeding
  • Sweet preference


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