An investigation of bupropion substitution for the interoceptive stimulus effects of nicotine

J. L. Wilkinson, F. I. Carroll, R. A. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Although the exact mechanism that makes bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban®) effective as a smoking cessation aid has not been fully elucidated, studies have found that bupropion and nicotine share behavioural and neurophysiological properties suggesting that bupropion might serve as a substitute for nicotine. In fact, bupropion prompts nicotine-appropriate responding in operant and Pavlovian drug discrimination studies with rats. A majority of the literature examining this substitution pattern has been done with an operant paradigm. The present research extended this literature by further characterising the behavioural and neuropharmacological properties underlying the substitution for a nicotine conditioned stimulus (CS). Examination of the dose-effect function and temporal dynamics of this substitution pattern showed that bupropion (20 mg/kg) produced conditioned responding similar to nicotine (0.4 mg base/kg) (ED50 = 9.9 mg/kg) at 15 and 30 min after injection and partially substituted 5 and 60 min post-injection. Bupropion produced a pattern of conditioned responding similar to nicotine during a 60-min extinction test. Additionally, it has been hypothesised that bupropion and nicotine have an overlapping dopaminergic mechanism. We tested the effects of bupropion pretreatment, the nicotine dose-effect function and the ability of dopamine antagonist to block the substitution of bupropion for nicotine. Pretreatment with doses of bupropion that did not substitute for the nicotine stimulus (5 and 10 mg/kg) did not affect nicotine-conditioned responding; pretreatment with 20 mg/kg attenuated nicotine-evoked responding. Pretreatment with the dopamine antagonists SCH-23390 and eticlopride blocked the substitution. Finally, S,S-hydroxybupropion, the major metabolite of bupropion in humans, did not substitute for the nicotine CS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-828
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • Conditioned stimulus
  • Discriminative stimulus
  • Dopamine
  • Drug discrimination
  • Hydroxybupropion
  • Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • Zyban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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