High-affinity α4β2 nicotinic receptors mediate the impairing effects of acute nicotine on contextual fear extinction

Munir Gunes Kutlu, Erica Holliday, Thomas J. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Previously, studies from our lab have shown that while acute nicotine administered prior to training and testing enhances contextual fear conditioning, acute nicotine injections prior to extinction sessions impair extinction of contextual fear. Although there is also strong evidence showing that the acute nicotine's enhancing effects on contextual fear conditioning require high-affinity α4β2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), it is unknown which nAChR subtypes are involved in the acute nicotine-induced impairment of contextual fear extinction. In this study, we investigated the effects of acute nicotine administration on contextual fear extinction in knock-out (KO) mice lacking α4, β2 or α7 subtypes of nAChRs and their wild-type (WT) littermates. Both KO and WT mice were first trained and tested for contextual fear conditioning and received a daily contextual extinction session for 4 days. Subjects received intraperitoneal injections of nicotine (0.18. mg/kg) or saline 2-4. min prior to each extinction session. Our results showed that the mice that lack α4 and β2 subtypes of nAChRs showed normal contextual fear extinction but not the acute nicotine-induced impairment while the mice that lack the α7 subtype showed both normal contextual extinction and nicotine-induced impairment of contextual extinction. In addition, control experiments showed that acute nicotine-induced impairment of contextual fear extinction persisted when nicotine administration was ceased and repeated acute nicotine administrations alone did not induce freezing behavior in the absence of context-shock learning. These results clearly demonstrate that high-affinity α4β2 nAChRs are necessary for the effects of acute nicotine on contextual fear extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-22
Number of pages6
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Extinction
  • Nicotine
  • Nicotinic receptors
  • PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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