Nicotine, the primary addictive substance in tobacco, is widely abused. Relapse to cues associated with nicotine results in increased glutamate release within nucleus accumbens core (NAcore), modifying synaptic plasticity of medium spiny neurons (MSNs), which contributes to reinstatement of nicotine seeking. However, the role of cholinergic interneurons (ChIs) within the NAcore in mediating these neurobehavioral processes is unknown. ChIs represent less than 1% of the accumbens neuronal population and are activated during drug seeking and reward-predicting events. Thus, we hypothesized that ChIs may play a significant role in mediating glutamatergic plasticity that underlies nicotine-seeking behavior. Using chemogenetics in transgenic rats expressing Cre under the control of the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) promoter, ChIs were bidirectionally manipulated before cue-induced reinstatement. Following nicotine self-administration and extinction, ChIs were activated or inhibited before a cue reinstatement session. Following reinstatement, whole-cell electrophysiology from NAcore MSNs was used to assess changes in plasticity, measured via AMPA/NMDA (A/N) ratios. Chemogenetic inhibition of ChIs inhibited cued nicotine seeking and resulted in decreased A/N, relative to control animals, whereas activation of ChIs was unaltered, demonstrating that ChI inhibition may modulate plasticity underlying cue-induced nicotine seeking. These results demonstrate that ChI neurons play an important role in mediating cue-induced nicotine reinstatement and underlying synaptic plasticity within the NAcore.
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