Menthol disrupts nicotine's psychostimulant properties in an age and sex-dependent manner in C57BL/6J mice
Menthol is a commonly used flavorant in tobacco and e-cigarettes, and could contribute to nicotine sensitivity. To understand how menthol could contribute to nicotine intake and addiction, it is important to determine whether specific mechanisms related to sex and age could underlie behavioral changes induced by menthol-laced nicotinic products. Using a validated paradigm of nicotine-dependent locomotor stimulation, adolescent and adult C57BL/6J mice of both sexes were exposed to nicotine, or nicotine laced with menthol, as their sole source of fluid, and psychostimulant effects were evaluated by recording home cage locomotor activity for ten days. Nicotine and cotinine blood levels were measured following exposure. Results show an interaction between treatment, age, and sex on liquid consumption, indicating that mice responded differently to menthol and nicotine based on their age and sex. Adult male mice greatly increased their nicotine intake when given menthol. In female mice of both age groups, menthol did not have this effect. Despite an increase in nicotine intake promoted by menthol, adult male mice showed a significant decrease in locomotion, suggesting that menthol blunted nicotine-induced psychostimulation. This behavioral response to menthol was not detected in adolescent mice of either sex. These data confirm that menthol is more than a flavorant, and can influence both nicotine intake and its psychostimulant effects. These results suggest that age- and sex-dependent mechanisms could underlie menthol's influence on nicotine intake and that studies including adolescent and adult menthol smokers of both sexes are warranted.