Rationale: Previous research indicates that acute nicotine administration enhances the acquisition of contextual fear conditioning and trace cued fear conditioning. Pharmacological inhibition of α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), but not α7 nAChRs, blocked the enhancing effect of nicotine on contextual fear conditioning. Similarly, genetic deletion of the β2 nAChR subunit but not the α7 nAChR subunit blocked the enhancing effect of nicotine on contextual fear conditioning. Objectives: In the present study, nAChR subunit knockout mice were used to compare the involvement of β2 subunit-containing nAChRs and α7 subunit-containing nAChRs in the effects of nicotine on hippocampus-dependent trace cued fear conditioning and contextual fear conditioning. Methods: β2 nAChR subunit knockout mice, α7 nAChR subunit knockout mice, and their wild-type littermates received either nicotine or saline 5 minutes before training and testing. Mice were trained using five conditioned stimulus (CS; 30 s, 85 dB white noise)-trace (30 s)-unconditioned stimulus (US; 2 s footshock) pairings. Freezing to the context and freezing to the CS were assessed 24 h later. Results: Both contextual and trace cued fear conditioning were enhanced by nicotine administration in wild-type littermates and in α7 nAChR subunit knockout mice. In contrast, neither contextual fear conditioning nor trace cued fear conditioning was enhanced by nicotine administration in β2 nAChR subunit knockout mice. Conclusions: These results suggest that β2 subunit-containing nAChRs but not α7 nAChR subunit-containing nAChRs are critically involved in the enhancing effect of nicotine on contextual and trace cued fear conditioning.
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