Nicotinic aspects of the discriminative stimulus effects of arecoline

Gail Winger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Despite the evidence that the muscarinic agonist arecoline is a drug of abuse throughout Southeast Asia, its stimulus characteristics have not been well studied. The goal of this work was to understand more about the mediation of discriminative stimulus effects of arecoline. Arecoline (1.0 mg/kg s.c.) was trained as a discriminative stimulus in a group of eight rats. The ability of various cholinergic agonists and antagonists to mimic or antagonize the discriminative stimulus effects of arecoline and to modify its rate-suppressing effects was evaluated. A muscarinic antagonist, but neither of two nicotinic antagonists, was able to modify the discriminative stimulus effects of arecoline, suggesting a predominant muscarinic basis of arecoline's discriminative stimulus effects in this assay. However, both nicotine itself and two nicotine agonists with selective affinity for the α4β2∗ receptor (ispronicline and metanicotine) produced full arecoline-like discriminative stimulus effects in these rats. The discriminative stimulus effects of the selective nicotine agonists were blocked by both the general nicotine antagonist mecamylamine and by the selective α4β2∗ antagonist, dihydro-beta-erythroidine (DHβE). Surprisingly, only DHβE antagonized the rate-suppressing effects of the selective nicotine agonists. These data indicate a selective α4β2∗ nicotine receptor component to the behavioral effects of arecoline. Although the nicotinic aspects of arecoline's behavior effects could suggest that abuse of arecoline-containing material (e.g. betel nut chewing) is mediated through nicotinic rather than muscarinic actions, further research, specifically on the reinforcing effects of arecoline, is necessary before this conclusion can be supported.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-589
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Arecoline
  • DHβE
  • Discrimination
  • Ispronicline
  • L 687,06
  • Mecamylamine
  • Metanicotine
  • Nicotine
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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