Cigarette smoking is common despite adverse health effects. Nicotine's effects on learning may contribute to addiction by enhancing drug-context associations. Effects of nicotine on learning could be direct or could occur by altering systems that modulate cognition. Because thyroid signaling can alter cognition and nicotine/smoking may change thyroid function, nicotine could affect learning through changes in thyroid signaling. These studies investigate the functional contributions of thyroid receptor (TR) subtypes β and α1 to nicotine-enhanced learning and characterize the effects of acute nicotine and learning on thyroid hormone levels. We conducted a high throughput screen of transcription factor activity to identify novel targets that may contribute to the effects of nicotine on learning. Based on these results, which showed that combined nicotine and learning uniquely acted to increase TR activation, we identified TRs as potential targets of nicotine. Further analyses were conducted to determine the individual and combined effects of nicotine and learning on thyroid hormone levels, but no changes were seen. Next, to determine the role of TRβ and TRα1 in the effects of nicotine on learning, mice lacking the TRβ or TRα1 gene and wildtype littermates were administered acute nicotine prior to fear conditioning. Nicotine enhanced contextual fear conditioning in TRα1 knockout mice and wildtypes from both lines but TRβ knockout mice did not show nicotine-enhanced learning. This finding supports involvement of TRβ signaling in the effect of acute nicotine on hippocampus-dependent memory. Acute nicotine enhances learning and these effects may involve processes regulated by the transcription factor TRβ.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience