Rationale: Cocaine (COC), ethanol (EtOH), and methamphetamine (MA) are widely abused substances and share the ability to induce behavioral stimulation in mice and humans. Understanding the biological basis of behavioral stimulation to COC, EtOH, and MA may provide a greater understanding of drug and alcohol abuse. Objectives: In these studies we set out to determine if neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors were involved in the acute locomotor responses to these drugs, our measure of behavioral stimulation. Methods: A panel of acetylcholine receptor antagonists was used to determine if nicotinic receptors were involved in EtOH- and psychostimulant-induced stimulation. We tested the effect of these drugs in genotypes of mice (FAST and DBA/2J) that are extremely sensitive to this drug effect. To determine which acetylcholine receptor subunits may be involved in this response, relative expression of the α3, α6, β2, and β4 subunit genes was examined in mice selectively bred for high and low response to EtOH. Results: Mecamylamine, but not hexamethonium, attenuated the acute locomotor response to EtOH. The acetylcholine receptor antagonist dihydro-β-erythroidine and methyllycaconitine had no effect on this response. The α6 and β4, but not α3 or β2, subunits of the acetylcholine receptor were differentially expressed between mice bred for extreme differences in EtOH stimulation. Mecamylamine had no effect on psychostimulant-induced locomotor activity. Conclusions: Neuronal nicotinic receptors are involved in EtOH, but not psychostimulant, stimulation. These studies suggest a lack of involvement of some nicotinic receptor subtypes, but more work is needed to determine the specific receptor subtypes involved in this behavior.
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