Nicotine self-administration remodels perineuronal nets in ventral tegmental area and orbitofrontal cortex in adult male rats

Dolores B. Vazquez-Sanroman, Reyna D. Monje, Michael T. Bardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Nicotine, a major psychoactive component of tobacco smoke, alters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) modulation of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Changes in structural neuroplasticity can occur in GABAergic parvalbumin (PRV) positive neurons, which are enveloped by structures of the extracellular matrix called perineuronal nets (PNNs). In the current study, rats were trained to self-administer intravenous nicotine (0.03 mg/kg/infusion) for 21 days in 1-hour daily sessions with an incrementing fixed ratio requirement; a control group received saline infusions. At either 45 minutes or 72 hours after the last session, immunofluorescence measurements for PNNs, PRV and c-Fos were conducted. In VTA, nicotine self-administration reduced the number of PRV+ cells surrounded by PNNs at 45 minutes, as well as reducing the intensity of PNNs, suggesting a remodeling of GABA interneurons in this region; the number of PRV+ cells surrounded by PNNs was also reduced at 72 hours. A similar reduction of PNNs occurred in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) but not in medial prefrontal cortex (prelimbic or infralimbic), 45 minutes after the last session; PNNs were not detected in nucleus accumbens (shell or core). The reduction of PNNs in VTA and OFC was unrelated to c-Fos + cells, as the percent of wisteria floribunda agglutinin + cells co-expressing c-Fos was decreased in OFC but not in VTA. Thus, nicotine self-administration remodeled PNNs surrounding GABA interneurons in VTA and its indirect connections to OFC, suggesting a new possible molecular target where nicotine-induced neuroplasticity takes place. PNN manipulations may prevent or reverse the different stages of tobacco addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1743-1755
Number of pages13
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017



  • c-Fos
  • nicotine self-administration
  • orbitofrontal cortex (OFC)
  • perineuronal nets (PNNs)
  • ventral tegmental area (VTA)

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