Bordia, T., McIntosh, J. M., & Quik, M. (2012). Nicotine reduces antipsychotic-induced orofacial dyskinesia in rats. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 340(3), 612-619.
Antipsychotics are an important class of drugs for the management of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. They act by blocking dopamine receptors; however, because these receptors are present throughout the brain, prolonged antipsychotic use also leads to serious side effects. These include tardive dyskinesia, repetitive abnormal involuntary movements of the face and limbs for which there is little treatment. In this study, we investigated whether nicotine administration could reduce tardive dyskinesia because nicotine attenuates other drug-induced abnormal movements. We used a well established model of tardive dyskinesia in which rats injected with the commonly used antipsychotic haloperidol develop vacuous chewing movements (VCMs) that resemble human orofacial dyskinesias. Rats were first administered nicotine (minipump; 2 mg/kg per day). Two weeks later, they were given haloperidol (1 mg/kg s.c.) once daily. Nicotine treatment reduced haloperidol-induced VCMs by ∼20% after 5 weeks, with a significant ∼60% decline after 13 weeks. There was no worsening of haloperidol-induced catalepsy. To understand the molecular basis for this improvement, we measured the striatal dopamine transporter and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Both haloperidol and nicotine treatment decreased the transporter and α6β2* nAChRs (the asterisk indicates the possible presence of other nicotinic subunits in the receptor complex) when given alone, with no further decline with combined drug treatment. By contrast, nicotine alone increased, while haloperidol reduced α4β2* nAChRs in both vehicle and haloperidol-treated rats. These data suggest that molecular mechanisms other than those directly linked to the transporter and nAChRs underlie the nicotine-mediated improvement in haloperidol-induced VCMs in rats. The present results are the first to suggest that nicotine may be useful for improving the tardive dyskinesia associated with antipsychotic use.