Effects of chronic inhalation of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine on glial glutamate transporters and α-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in female CD-1 mice
Alteration in glutamate neurotransmission has been found to mediate the development of drug dependence, including nicotine. We and others, through using western blotting, have reported that exposure to drugs of abuse reduced the expression of glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) as well as cystine/glutamate antiporter (xCT), which consequently increased extracellular glutamate concentrations in the mesocorticolimbic area. However, our previous studies did not reveal any changes in glutamate/aspartate transporter (GLAST) following exposure to drugs of abuse. In the present study, for the first time, we investigated the effect of chronic exposure to electronic (e)-cigarette vapor containing nicotine, for one hour daily for six months, on GLT-1, xCT, and GLAST expression in frontal cortex (FC), striatum (STR), and hippocampus (HIP) in outbred female CD1 mice. In this study, we also investigated the expression of alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α-7 nAChR), a major pre-synaptic nicotinic receptor in the glutamatergic neurons, which regulates glutamate release. We found that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor for six months increased α-7 nAChR expression in both FC and STR, but not in the HIP. In addition, chronic e-cigarette exposure reduced GLT-1 expression only in STR. Moreover, e-cigarette vapor inhalation induced downregulation of xCT in both the STR and HIP. We did not find any significant changes in GLAST expression in any brain region. Finally, using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) techniques, we detected high concentrations of nicotine and cotinine, a major metabolite of nicotine, in the FC tissues of e-cigarette exposed mice. These data provide novel evidence about the effects of chronic nicotine inhalation on the expression of key glial glutamate transporters as well as α-7 nAChR. Our work may suggest that nicotine exposure via chronic inhalation of e-cigarette vapor may be mediated in part by alterations in the glutamatergic system.