Rationale: Previous neurochemical evidence indicates that R(+)-nornicotine is more potent than S(-)-nornicotine in evoking dopamine release in rat nucleus accumbens slices. Objective: The current study tested the hypothesis that R(+)-nornicotine is also more potent than S(-)-nornicotine in selectively decreasing intravenous S(-)-nicotine self-administration in rats. Results: After acute pretreatment (1-10 mg/kg for each enantiomer), R(+)-nornicotine was more potent than S(-)-nornicotine in decreasing S(-)-nicotine self-administration; in contrast, within the same dose range, the nornicotine enantiomers were equipotent in decreasing sucrose-maintained responding. This enantioselectivity does not likely reflect a difference in bioavailability, since similar levels of nornicotine were recovered from the brain 60 min after injection (5.6 mg/kg for each enantiomer). With repeated pretreatment, tolerance did not develop to the rate-decreasing effect of either nornicotine enantiomer (3 or 5.6 mg/kg) with respect to the decrease in S(-)-nicotine self-administration, although the enantioselectivity dissipated across repeated pretreatments. While both enantiomers acutely produced a similar increase in blood pressure and heart rate, tolerance developed to the blood pressure effects of R(+)-nornicotine, but not to the effects of S(-)-nornicotine, across repeated treatments. Conclusion: Both R(+)- and S(-)-nornicotine may have potential utility as a novel tobacco use cessation agent.
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