Catecholamine outflow from mouse and rat brain slice preparations evoked by nicotinic acetylcholine receptor activation and electrical field stimulation


Center for Brain Research, Medical University of Vienna, Spitalgasse 4, A-1090 Vienna, Austria. E-mail:


Background and purpose:

Mice with targeted deletions of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subunit genes are valuable models to study nAChR function such as catecholamine outflow by presynaptic receptor activation. Contrary to the rat, our present knowledge on presynaptic nAChRs in mice primarily relies on observations made with synaptosomes. We have now used brain slices to investigate nicotine-induced catecholamine outflow in wild type (WT) and nAChR (β2 and α5) knockout mice for a comparison with rat brain slice preparations.

Experimental approach:

Brain slices from rat and mouse hippocampus, parieto-occipital neocortex, and corpus striatum were loaded with either [3H]-noradrenaline or [3H]-dopamine. We provoked catecholamine outflow by electrical field stimulation and nicotinic agonists.

Key results:

When set in relation to electrical field stimulation, nicotine-evoked catecholamine release was sizeable in the striatum but low in the neocortex of both rats and mice. [3H]-noradrenaline outflow was, on the other hand, substantial in the rat but low in the mouse hippocampus. About 10% (or less) of nicotine-induced catecholamine release persisted in the presence of tetrodotoxin in all our preparations.

Conclusions and implications:

Targeted deletion of the β2 subunit gene essentially abolished the effect of nicotine, indicating that this subunit is an essential constituent of nAChRs that indirectly (via action potentials) induce catecholamine release from hippocampal and striatal slices in mice. The impact of nAChRs in catecholaminergic projection areas differs between species and has thus to be considered when extrapolating results from animal models to human conditions.

British Journal of Pharmacology (2007) 151, 414–422; doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0707236