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Keywords:

  • brain reward function;
  • chronic bupropion;
  • extracellular dopamine;
  • nicotine withdrawal;
  • nucleus accumbens shell;
  • rat

Abstract

Bupropion, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, is an effective therapy for smoking cessation, but the behavioral and neurochemical mechanisms mediating its antismoking properties are relatively unknown. To explore the hypothesis that bupropion ameliorates nicotine withdrawal partly by a dopamine-dependent mechanism, we investigated the effects of chronic bupropion on potassium-stimulated dopamine overflow in the nucleus accumbens shell in nicotine-withdrawing rats. We also assessed the effects of chronic bupropion on behavioral aspects of nicotine withdrawal measured by elevations in brain reward thresholds and somatic signs of withdrawal. Rats were treated with nicotine or saline for 7 days and then coadministration of bupropion or saline was initiated. After 14 days of coadministration of bupropion/saline and nicotine/saline, nicotine/saline administration was terminated, whereas bupropion/saline administration continued. These conditions mimic bupropion administration in human smokers. Cessation of nicotine administration in non-bupropion-treated rats elevated reward thresholds reflecting a reward deficit, increased somatic signs and diminished potassium-evoked dopamine overflow in the nucleus accumbens shell. Chronic bupropion lowered reward thresholds and increased potassium-evoked dopamine release regardless of previous nicotine exposure, possibly by inhibition of dopamine reuptake, and thus attenuated the anhedonic and neurochemical effects of nicotine withdrawal. Chronic bupropion blocked withdrawal-associated increased somatic signs. Finally, acute experimenter-administered nicotine enhanced brain reward function equally in all groups, indicating that bupropion does not alter the reward-facilitating effects of experimenter-administered nicotine. In conclusion, the bupropion-induced increase in extracellular dopamine in the nucleus accumbens shell may ameliorate the anhedonia associated with nicotine withdrawal, which in turn may facilitate smoking cessation.