Role of the D3 dopamine receptor in nicotine sensitization Academic Article uri icon


  • Adolescent cigarette use is associated with reduced quitting success and continued smoking in adulthood. Interestingly, polymorphisms of the dopamine D3 receptor (DRD3) gene have been associated with smoking behavior, and the receptor is expressed in an age- and brain region-dependent manner that suggests relevance to addiction. Here, we investigate the possible role of dopamine-related receptors, including DRD3 and an intriguing splice variant known as D3nf, in nicotine-induced sensitization. In adolescent and adult male rats, we examined (1) alterations occurring in dopamine receptor-related mRNAs (DRD1, DRD2, DRD3 and D3nf) at two time points during a sensitizing regimen of nicotine and (2) whether DRD3 antagonism either during the initial treatment (induction) or at a later challenge exposure (expression) is able to block nicotine sensitization. Nicotine-induced changes were seen for DRD3 and D3nf mRNAs in the nucleus accumbens shell early in repeated exposure in both age groups. DRD3 antagonism only blocked the induction of sensitization in adolescents and did not block the expression of sensitization in either age group. Adolescents and adults showed opposite DRD1 mRNA responses to nicotine treatment, while no age- and nicotine-related changes in DRD2 mRNA were observed. These data reveal important age-dependent regulation of DRD1- and DRD3-related mRNAs during the course of nicotine exposure. Furthermore, they highlight a requirement for DRD3 signaling in the development of adolescent nicotine sensitization, suggesting it may represent an appropriate target in the prevention of nicotine dependence initiated at this age.

author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, L. N., Bachus, S. E., McDonald, C. G., & Smith, R. F.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • August 2015