Tengfei's Carbon Disulfide paper is published by PLoS ONE

Carbon Disulfide Mediates Socially-Acquired Nicotine Self-Administration
Tengfei Wang, Hao Chen 

PLoS ONE. December 22, 2014

Social environment is a critical factor in smoking initiation. We previously established a rat model of socially-acquired nicotine self-administration. In this model, a contingent olfactogustatory (OG) cue was paired with intravenous nicotine self-administration in rats. Rats tested alone in the operant chamber developed conditioned flavor aversion. However, the presence of a second rat that consumed the same OG cue, but did not receive nicotine, in the operant chamber greatly enhanced nicotine intake. We demonstrated in this paper that Carbon Disulfide (CS2), a volatile gas contained in the breath of rats, is the social signal that mediates the social learning of nicotine intake in our model. 

Tengfei's menthol paper is published by Frontiers Behavioral Neuroscience

Menthol facilitates the intravenous self-administration of nicotine in rats

Tengfei Wang, Bin Wang and Hao Chen

Front. Behav. Neurosci., 16 December 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00437


Menthol is the number one additive to tobacco products. We identified the cooling sensation of menthol as a conditioned cue for nicotine self-administration in adolescent rats. We showed that contingent cooling sensation promoted nicotine intake, induced strong extinction burst and relapse to nicotine seeking. The summary figure on the left showed that the amount of nicotine intake when different sensory cues were used. Menthol or cues inducing a cooling sensation maintained similar amount of nicotine intake, while olfactory or gustatory cues did not support nicotine intake. 

Tengfei and Hao attended the first retreat of the Rat GWAS center.

The NIDA center for GWAS in outbred rats was funded in 2014 to study the genetics of drug-abuse related behavioral traits in rats. This grant is a collaboration between University of Chicago (Abraham Palmer), University of Michigan (Terry Robinson and Shelly Flagel), SUNY Buffalo (Jerry Richards, Paul Meyer and Joe Lucke),  Medical College of Wisconsin (Leah Solberg Woods), and our lab.  Tengfei and Hao attended the first retreat of the center on Sept 17, 2014 held in the Quadrango Club, University of Chicago. Hao Presented previous work on socially-acquired nicotine self-administration and the plan for the studies that will be carried out in the next five years. The retreat agenda is available here


Open source computing platform for behavioral tests

Together with Dr. Lan Wang from University of Memphis, we are working on an open source project that uses the Raspberry Pi single-board computer and visual programming to conduct behavior tests. Many input/output devices will be supported (e.g. infrared, RFID, temp/humidity sensing, etc.). Designs and codes will be available at openbehavior.org as they are developed. Meanwhile, we are posting our development code on GitHub.

Hao attended UT KBRIN Bioinformatics Summit

Hao  attended the summit this past weekend.  He presented two posters.

1. Evaluating statistical learning methods for cell type classification and feature selection using RNA-seq data (Hao Chen)

2. Establishing a protocol for single cell transcriptome sequencing of the rat brain (Hao Chen, Burt Sharp)

The summit was held at the beautiful Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz, KY

The summit was held at the beautiful Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz, KY

RNA-seq article published by PLoS ONE


We analyzed the transcriptome of nucleus accumbens shell of 10 isogenic strains of rats using Weighted Gene-Coexpression Network Analysis (WGCNA). Twelve of these gene networks were correlated with the amount of nicotine intake. Nine of these had negative correlation (increased expression was associated with reduced nicotine intake). Automated literature analysis found one of these modules contained 15 genes nominally associated with smoking. These findings provide new insights into genetic mechanisms that predispose or protect against tobacco addiction.

This project was built on some of our previous work:

  • Transcriptome sequencing of samples obtained using laser capture microdissection was reported in Front Neurosci;
  • Nicotine self-administration in isogenic strains of rats was published in PLoS ONE;
  • Literature analysis using Chilibot was described in BMC Bioinformatics.