We investigated the behavioral and molecular interactions between cocaine and nicotine, through evaluating locomotor activity, nicotine intravenous self-administration and gene expression. Locomotor sensitization was induced in male Wistar rats by repeated cocaine (20 mg/kg; i.p.) or saline injections once a day over 7 days. Three days after the last injection, rats were challenged with either saline or cocaine (15 mg/kg; i.p.) and the locomotor activity was measured. The very next day animals received either saline or nicotine (0.4 mg/kg; s.c.) and the locomotor cross-sensitization was tested. Animals were then prepared with intrajugular catheters for nicotine self-administration. Nicotine self-administration patterns were evaluated using fixed or progressive ratio schedules of reinforcement and a 24-h unlimited access binge. Immediately after the binge sessions animals were decapitated, the brains were removed and the nucleus accumbens was dissected. The dynorphin (DYN), μ-opioid receptor (mu opioid), neuropeptide Y (NPY), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), tropomyosin-related tyrosine kinase B receptor (TrkB) and corticotropin-releasing factor receptor type 1 (CRF-R1) gene expression were measured by the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Pretreatment with cocaine caused sensitization of cocaine motor response and locomotor cross-sensitization with nicotine. In the self-administration experiments repeated cocaine administration caused an increase in the nicotine break point and nicotine intake during a 24 h binge session.Highlights
▸ Evaluation of locomotor activity, nicotine self-administration and gene expression. ▸ Molecular assays to evaluate gene expression in the nucleus accumbens. ▸ Cocaine caused locomotor sensitization and cross-sensitization with nicotine. ▸ Repeated cocaine injections increased the break point and total nicotine intake. ▸ Cocaine and nicotine interaction increased BDNF gene expression in the accumbens.