Nicotine evokes kinetic tremor by activating the inferior olive via α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors

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Nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptors are implicated in the pathogenesis of movement disorders (e.g., tremor) and epilepsy. Here, we performed behavioral and immunohistochemical studies using mice and rats to elucidate the mechanisms underlying nicotine-induced tremor. Treatments of animals with nicotine (0.5–2 mg/kg, i.p.) elicited kinetic tremor, which was completely suppressed by the nACh receptor antagonist mecamylamine (MEC). The specific α7 nACh receptor antagonist methyllycaconitine (MLA) also inhibited nicotine-induced tremor, whereas the α4β2 nACh antagonist dihydro-β-erythroidine (DHβE) or the peripheral α3β4 nACh antagonist hexamethonium showed no effects. Mapping analysis of Fos protein expression, a biological marker of neural excitation, revealed that a tremorgenic dose (1 mg/kg) of nicotine region-specifically elevated Fos expression in the piriform cortex (PirC), medial habenula, solitary nucleus and inferior olive (IO) among 44 brain regions examined. In addition, similarly to the tremor responses, nicotine-induced Fos expression in the PirC and IO was selectively antagonized by MLA, but not by DHβE. Furthermore, an electrical lesioning of the IO, but not the PirC, significantly suppressed the induction of nicotine tremor. The present results suggest that nicotine elicits kinetic tremor in rodents by activating the IO neurons via α7 nACh receptors.

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