Dubol M, Immenschuh J, Jonasson M, Takahashi K, Niwa T, Hosoya T, Roslin S, Wikström J, Antoni G, Watanabe Y, Lubberink M, Biegon A, Sundström-Poromaa I, Comasco E
Compr Psychiatry 123 (-) 152381 [2023-05-00; online 2023-03-05]
Of interest to women's mental health, a wealth of studies suggests sex differences in nicotine addiction and treatment response, but their psychoneuroendocrine underpinnings remain largely unknown. A pathway involving sex steroids could indeed be involved in the behavioural effects of nicotine, as it was found to inhibit aromatase in vitro and in vivo in rodents and non-human primates, respectively. Aromatase regulates the synthesis of oestrogens and, of relevance to addiction, is highly expressed in the limbic brain. The present study sought to investigate in vivo aromatase availability in relation to exposure to nicotine in healthy women. Structural magnetic resonance imaging and two [11C]cetrozole positron emission tomography (PET) scans were performed to assess the availability of aromatase before and after administration of nicotine. Gonadal hormones and cotinine levels were measured. Given the region-specific expression of aromatase, a ROI-based approach was employed to assess changes in [11C]cetrozole non-displaceable binding potential. The highest availability of aromatase was found in the right and left thalamus. Upon nicotine exposure, [11C]cetrozole binding in the thalamus was acutely decreased bilaterally (Cohen's d = -0.99). In line, cotinine levels were negatively associated with aromatase availability in the thalamus, although as non-significant trend. These findings indicate acute blocking of aromatase availability by nicotine in the thalamic area. This suggests a new putative mechanism mediating the effects of nicotine on human behaviour, particularly relevant to sex differences in nicotine addiction.