Enhanced attenuation of nicotine discrimination in rats by combining nicotine-specific antibodies with a nicotinic receptor antagonist

Mark G. Lesage, David Shelley, Marco Pravetoni, Paul R. Pentel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Tobacco addiction requires activation by nicotine of a variety of central nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). In animals, both nAChR antagonists and immunization against nicotine can reduce nAChR activation by nicotine and block a variety of addiction-relevant behaviors. However, clinical use of nAChR antagonists for smoking cessation is limited by dose-related side effects, and immunization does not reliably produce sufficient antibody levels in smokers to enhance smoking cessation rates. Combining these approaches may be one way of addressing the limitations of each while enhancing overall efficacy. This study examined the individual and combined effects of passive immunization with the monoclonal nicotine-specific antibody Nic311 and the nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine (MEC) on nicotine's discriminative stimulus effects. Rats were trained to discriminate 0.4 mg/kg of nicotine from saline using a two-lever operant discrimination procedure. Antagonism of nicotine discrimination by Nic311 (160 mg/kg i.v.) and ascending doses of MEC (0.03, 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0 mg/kg s.c.) was assessed across four consecutive daily 2-min extinction test sessions using a 2 × 2 design. Nic311 alone produced a 24-48% reduction in % nicotine-lever responding (%NLR) across all four test sessions. MEC produced a dose-dependent decrease in %NLR, with no effect at the two lowest doses and 80-93% attenuation at the two highest doses. Nic311 combined with MEC significantly suppressed %NLR at every MEC dose (85-92% reduction across all four test sessions). Very low doses of MEC that were ineffective alone completely blocked nicotine discrimination when combined with Nic311. These data demonstrate that nicotine-specific antibodies and MEC can work synergistically to suppress the subjective effects of nicotine and suggest that low doses of MEC may significantly enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Catherine Early and Danielle Burroughs for their technical assistance in conducting the study. This study was supported by NIH/NIDA grant DA-10714 (Pentel, PI) and a career development award from the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation (Pentel, PI).


  • Drug discrimination
  • Mecamylamine
  • Monoclonal nicotine-specific antibodies
  • Nicotine
  • Rat


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