Nicotine anxiogenic and rewarding effects are decreased in mice lacking beta-endorphin.
ABSTRACT The endogenous opioid system plays an important role in the behavioral effects of nicotine. Thus, micro-opioid receptor and the endogenous opioids derived from proenkephalin are involved in the central effects of nicotine. However, the role played by the different endogenous opioid peptides in the acute and chronic effects of nicotine remains to be fully established. Mice lacking beta-endorphin were acutely injected with nicotine at different doses to evaluate locomotor, anxiogenic and antinociceptive responses. The rewarding properties of nicotine were evaluated by using the conditioned place-preference paradigm. Mice chronically treated with nicotine were acutely injected with mecamylamine to study the behavioral expression of nicotine withdrawal. Mice lacking beta-endorphin exhibited a spontaneous hypoalgesia and hyperlocomotion and a reduction on the anxiogenic and rewarding effects induced by nicotine. Nicotine induced similar antinociception and hypolocomotion in both genotypes and no differences were found in the development of physical dependence. The dissociation between nicotine rewarding properties and physical dependence suggests a differential implication of beta-endorphin in these addictive related responses.