Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Imad Damaj


Substantial evidence in the literature shows that tobacco smoking has complex and divergent effects on inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It ameliorates ulcerative colitis (UC); whereas it aggravates the risk of Crohn’s disease (CD) and affects the disease course and severity. Studies have shown that nicotine has a positive influence on symptoms of UC. Also, it is demonstrated that nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, especially α7 subunit plays an essential component in the vagus nerve-based cholinergic anti-inflammatory effects. In the present study, we explored the effect of nicotine and α7 nicotinic agonists treatment in the DSS colitis mouse model. We also investigated the effects of cotinine, a major metabolite of nicotine, in the model. Methods: Different groups of C57BL6 mice, as well as α7, α5, and β2 nicotinic receptor knock out mice, and their littermates wild-type nicotinic receptor male adult mice were given DSS solution freely in the drinking water for 7 consecutive days after which tap water was given on the 8th day. We measured a Disease Activity Index (DAI) that includes body weight loss, blood presence in stools, stool consistency, local rectal irritation and length of the colon. The mice were then sacrificed on day 8 to allow examination of the entire colon. Disease severity and colon tissue histology and inflammatory markers including colonic myeloperoxidase (MPO) and colonic tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) were evaluated. Levels of MPO and TNF-α were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay analysis of the homogenized colon samples. The effect of oral, subcutaneous, mini pump nicotine, and oral cotinine treatments were examined on experimental colitis induced by 2.5% DSS in mice. In addition, we measured the plasma levels of the nicotine and cotinine in our treatment protocols. Results: The DSS 2.5% model of colitis is easily induced in mice. Administration of low doses of oral nicotine (12.5 and 25 μg/ml), but not high doses in DSS-treated mice displayed a significant decrease in disease activity index value, total histological damage scores, as well as colonic level of TNF-α compared to the control group. However, the anti-inflammatory effect of nicotine was not seen with chronic s.c., mini pump nicotine or oral cotinine administration. Differences in plasma levels of nicotine and cotinine do not seem to account for this lack of effect. Moreover, neither nicotine nor cotinine reversed colon length shortening in DSS-treated mice, except with the 0.5 mg/kg s.c. dose of nicotine. There was no change in MPO activity among the groups treated with oral or s.c. nicotine. Cotinine oral administration on its own failed to show a significant effect in the DSS model of colitis. α7 KO mice displayed a significantly increased in DAI value starting from day 4 till day 8, histological damage scores and TNF-α levels of were increased significantly compared to their littermate WT mice. Moreover, pretreatments with PHA-543613 (8 mg/kg), a selective α7 agonist, and choline chloride (40 ug/ml), an α7 nAChR natural agonist, significantly reduced clinical parameters in DSS-treated mice; however, they slightly inhibited the increase in the colonic TNF-α levels compare with vehicle DSS-treated mice. Moreover, PNU-120596 (3 mg/kg), a positive allosteric modulator for α7 nAChRs, significantly reduced DAI value and total histological damage score in DSS-treated mice. Conclusion: Results obtained from this study highlight that dose and route of administration play a critical role in the protective effect of nicotine in the DSS mouse colitis model. Also, these data suggest that α7 nAChR has a protective role in colitis with narrower therapeutic index. Data obtained from this study further understanding of the effect of nicotine in UC and may contribute in the development of new pharmaceutical designs for targeting nAChRs for the treatment of ulcerative colitis.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

November 2012