Natural and synthetic estrogens specifically alter nicotine demand and cue-induced nicotine seeking in female rats

Erin E. Maher, Paula F. Overby, Amanda H. Bull, Joshua S. Beckmann, Jonna M. Leyrer-Jackson, Stephanie V. Koebele, Heather A. Bimonte-Nelson, Cassandra D. Gipson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Women have more difficulty maintaining smoking cessation than men, and experience greater withdrawal symptomatology as well as higher prevalence of relapse. Further, currently available treatments for smoking cessation, such as the nicotine patch and varenicline, have been shown to be less effective in women. Fluctuations in ovarian hormones across the menstrual cycle can affect craving and smoking relapse propensity. In addition, many women who smoke use some form of oral contraceptives, which most often contain ethinyl estradiol (EE), a synthetic, orally bio-available estrogen that is currently prescribed to women chronically and has been shown to alter smoking reward in women. The current study examined the impact of 17β-estradiol (E2), the prominent endogenous form of the steroid hormone estrogen, as well as EE, on nicotine self-administration, demand, and reinstatement following ovariectomy (OVX) or sham surgery. OVX vehicle-treated female rats consumed less nicotine, had lower intensity of demand, and reinstated less compared to sham vehicle-treated female rats. OVX-E2 and OVX-EE treatment groups showed a rebound of nicotine intake later in training, and Q0 levels of consumption were partially rescued in both groups. Further, E2 but not EE reversed the abolishment of reinstated nicotine seeking induced by OVX. Taken together, these results demonstrate that natural and synthetic estrogens play a critical role in mediating the neurobehavioral effects of nicotine, and future studies are essential for our understanding of how synthetic hormones contained within oral contraceptives interact with smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108756
StatePublished - Oct 15 2021


  • 17β-estradiol
  • Demand
  • Estrogen
  • Ethinyl estradiol
  • Nicotine
  • Reinstatement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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