Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

M. Imad Damaj


Tobacco dependence dramatically increases health burdens and financial costs. Limitations of current smoking cessation therapies indicate the need for improved molecular targets. Nicotine, the main addictive component of tobacco, exerts its dependency effects via nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). The homomeric α7 nAChR is one of the most abundant receptors found in the brain and has unique features in comparison to other nAChR subtypes such as high calcium permeability, low probability of channel opening, and a rapid desensitization rate. α7 nAChR agonists reduce nicotine's rewarding properties in the conditioned place preference (CPP) test and i.v. self-administration. Recently, the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor type-α (PPARα) has been implicated as a downstream signaling target of the α7 nAChR in ventral tegmental area dopamine cells. It is unknown whether the intrinsic characteristics of the α7 nAChR and PPARα are involved in its attenuation of nicotine reward. Therefore, this dissertation sought to investigate the role of α7 nAChRs in a mouse model of nicotine CPP and nicotine withdrawal by 1) investigating the impact of pharmacological modulation of α7 nAChR function in nicotine dependence and 2) evaluating a possible role for PPARα as a downstream mediator of α7 nAChRs in nicotine dependence. Positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) and a silent agonist were used to investigate the role of α7 nAChR conformations. The utilization of the α7 nAChR Type I PAM NS1738, Type II PAM PNU120596, and silent agonist NS6740 provided insight about the probability of channel opening (NS1738, PNU120596), desensitization (PNU120596, NS6740), and modulation of the endogenous acetylcholine/ choline tone (NS1738, PNU120596) as it relates to the α7 nAChR in nicotine CPP and withdrawal. In addition, this dissertation sought to elucidate the role of the α7 nAChR and PPARα in nicotine dependence using pharmacological interventions. The results suggest that the role of the α7 nAChR in nicotine dependence is conformation-dependent and PPARα-mediated. This dissertation is the first to report PPARα-mediation of the effects of α7 nAChR in nicotine reward and attenuation of nicotine withdrawal signs by PPARα activation. This data supports the development of α7 nAChR agonists and PPARα activators as possible smoking cessation aids.


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Available for download on Monday, May 09, 2022

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