In a previous study using Jacobian mapping to evaluate the morphological effects on the brain of binge (4‐day) intragastric ethanol (EtOH) on wild‐type Wistar rats, we reported reversible thalamic shrinkage and lateral ventricular enlargement, but persistent superior and inferior colliculi shrinkage in response to binge EtOH treatment.
Herein, we used similar voxel‐based comparisons of Magnetic Resonance Images collected in EtOH‐exposed relative to control animals to test the hypothesis that regardless of the intoxication protocol or the rat strain, the hippocampi, thalami, and colliculi would be affected.
Two experiments [binge (4‐day) intragastric EtOH in Fisher 344 rats and chronic (1‐month) vaporized EtOH in Wistar rats] showed similarly affected brain regions including retrosplenial and cingulate cortices, dorsal hippocampi, central and ventroposterior thalami, superior and inferior colliculi, periaqueductal gray, and corpus callosum. While most of these regions showed significant recovery, volumes of the colliculi and periaqueductal gray continued to show response to each proximal EtOH exposure but at diminished levels with repeated cycles.
Given the high metabolic rate of these enduringly affected regions, the current findings suggest that EtOH per se may affect cellular respiration leading to brain volume deficits. Further, responsivity greatly diminished likely reflecting neuroadaptation to repeated alcohol exposure. In summary, this unbiased, in vivo‐based approach demonstrating convergent brain systems responsive to 2 EtOH exposure protocols in 2 rat strains highlights regions that warrant further investigation in both animal models of alcoholism and in humans with alcohol use disorder.
N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are glutamate-gated ion channels essential for glutamatergic transmission and plasticity. NMDARs are inhibited by acute ethanol and undergo brain region-specific adaptations after chronic alcohol exposure. In previous studies, we reported that knock-in mice expressing ethanol-insensitive GluN1 or GluN2A NMDAR subunits display altered behavioral responses to acute ethanol and genotype-dependent changes in drinking using protocols that do not produce dependence. A key unanswered question is whether the intrinsic ethanol sensitivity of NMDARs also plays a role in determining behavioral adaptations that accompany the development of dependence. To test this, we exposed mice to repeated cycles of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) vapor known to produce a robust escalation in ethanol consumption and preference. As expected, wild-type mice showed a significant increase from baseline in ethanol consumption and preference after each of the four weekly CIE cycles. In contrast, ethanol consumption in male GluN2A(A825W) mice was unchanged following cycles 1, 2, and 4 of CIE with a modest increase appearing after cycle 3. Wild-type and GluN2A(A825W) female mice did not show a clear or consistent escalation in ethanol consumption or preference following CIE treatment. In male GluN1(F639A) mice, the increase in ethanol consumption observed with their wild-type littermates was delayed until later cycles of exposure. These results suggest that the acute ethanol sensitivity of NMDARs especially those containing the GluN2A subunit may be a critical factor in the escalation of ethanol intake in alcohol dependence.
An overarching goal of our research has been to develop a valid animal model of alcoholism with similar imaging phenotypes as those observed in humans with the ultimate objective of assessing the effectiveness of pharmacological agents. In contrast to our findings in humans with alcohol use disorders (AUD), our animal model experiments have not demonstrated enduring brain pathology despite chronic, high ethanol (EtOH) exposure protocols. Relative to healthy controls, older individuals with AUD demonstrate accelerating brain tissue loss with advanced age. Thus, this longitudinally controlled study was conducted in 4-month old (equivalent to ~16-year-old humans) and 17-month old (equivalent to ~45-year-old humans) male and female Fisher 344 rats to test the hypothesis that following equivalent alcohol exposure protocols, older relative to younger animals would exhibit more brain changes as evaluated using in vivo structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and MR spectroscopy (MRS). At baseline, total brain volume as well as the volumes of each of the three constituent tissue types (i.e., cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), gray matter, white matter) were greater in old relative to young rats. Baseline metabolite levels (except for glutathione) were higher in older than younger animals. Effects of binge EtOH exposure on brain volumes and neurometabolites replicated our previous findings in Wistar rats and included ventricular enlargement and reduced MRS-derived creatine levels. Brain changes in response to binge EtOH treatment were more pronounced in young relative to older animals, negating our hypothesis. Higher baseline glutathione levels in female than male rats suggest that female rats are perhaps protected against the more pronounced changes in CSF and gray matter volumes observed in male rats due to superior metabolic homeostasis mechanisms. Additional metabolite changes including low inositol levels in response to high blood alcohol levels support a mechanism of reversible osmolarity disturbances due to temporarily altered brain energy metabolism.
The inbred mouse strain C57BL/6 is widely used in both models of addiction and immunological disease. However, there are pronounced phenotypic differences in ethanol (EtOH) consumption and innate immune response between C57BL/6 substrains. The focus of this study was to examine the effects of substrain on innate immune response and neuroimmune‐induced escalation of voluntary EtOH consumption. The main goal was to identify whether substrain differences in immune response can account for differences in EtOH behavior.
We compared acute innate immune response with a viral dsRNA mimic, polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)), in brain using qRT‐PCR in both C57BL/6N and C57BL/6J mice. Next, we used a neuroimmune model of escalation using poly(I:C) to compare drinking behavior between substrains. Finally, we compared brain neuroimmune response with both EtOH and repeated poly(I:C) in both substrains as a way to account for differences in EtOH behavior.
We found that C57BL/6 substrains have differing immune response and drinking behaviors. C57BL/6N mice have a shorter but more robust inflammatory response to acute poly(I:C). In contrast, C57BL/6J mice have a smaller but longer‐lasting acute immune response to poly(I:C). In our neuroimmune‐induced escalation model, C57BL/6J mice but not C57BL/6N mice escalate EtOH intake after poly(I:C). Finally, only C57BL/6J mice show enhanced proinflammatory transcript abundance after poly(I:C) and EtOH, suggesting that longer‐lasting immune responses are critical to neuroimmune drinking phenotypes.
Altogether, this work has elucidated additional influences that substrain has on both innate immune response and drinking phenotypes. Our observations highlight the importance of considering and reporting the source and background used for production of transgenic and knockout mice. These data provide further evidence that genetic background must be carefully considered when investigating the role of neuroimmune signaling in EtOH abuse.
Microglia, the primary immune cells of the brain, are implicated in alcohol use disorder. However, it is not known if microglial activation contributes to the transition from alcohol use to alcohol use disorder or is a consequence of alcohol intake.
We investigated the role of microglia in a mouse model of alcohol dependence using a colony stimulating factor 1 receptor inhibitor (PLX5622) to deplete microglia and a chronic intermittent ethanol vapor two-bottle choice drinking procedure. Additionally, we examined anxiety-like behavior during withdrawal. We then analyzed synaptic neuroadaptations in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and gene expression changes in the medial prefrontal cortex and CeA from the same animals used for behavioral studies.
PLX5622 prevented escalations in voluntary alcohol intake and decreased anxiety-like behavior associated with alcohol dependence. PLX5622 also reversed expression changes in inflammatory-related genes and glutamatergic and GABAergic (gamma-aminobutyric acidergic) genes in the medial prefrontal cortex and CeA. At the cellular level in these animals, microglia depletion reduced inhibitory GABA A and excitatory glutamate receptor-mediated synaptic transmission in the CeA, supporting the hypothesis that microglia regulate dependence-induced changes in neuronal function.
Our multifaceted approach is the first to link microglia to the molecular, cellular, and behavioral changes associated with the development of alcohol dependence, suggesting that microglia may also be critical for the development and progression of alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol abuse induces changes in microglia morphology and immune function, but whether microglia initiate or simply amplify the harmful effects of alcohol exposure is still a matter of debate. Here, we determine microglia function in acute and voluntary drinking behaviors using a colony‐stimulating factor 1 receptor inhibitor (PLX5622). We show that microglia depletion does not alter the sedative or hypnotic effects of acute intoxication. Microglia depletion also does not change the escalation or maintenance of chronic voluntary alcohol consumption. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that although many immune genes have been implicated in alcohol abuse, downregulation of microglia genes does not necessitate changes in alcohol intake. Instead, microglia depletion and chronic alcohol result in compensatory upregulation of alcohol‐responsive, reactive astrocyte genes, indicating astrocytes may play a role in regulation of these alcohol behaviors. Taken together, our behavioral and transcriptional data indicate that microglia are not the primary effector cell responsible for regulation of acute and voluntary alcohol behaviors. Because microglia depletion did not regulate acute or voluntary alcohol behaviors, we hypothesized that these doses were insufficient to activate microglia and recruit them to an effector phenotype. Therefore, we used a model of repeated immune activation using polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)) to activate microglia. Microglia depletion blocked poly(I:C)‐induced escalations in alcohol intake, indicating microglia regulate drinking behaviors with sufficient immune activation. By testing the functional role of microglia in alcohol behaviors, we provide insight into when microglia are causal and when they are consequential for the transition from alcohol use to dependence.
Binge drinking is a widespread public health concern with limited effective treatment options. To better select pharmaceutical targets, it is imperative to expand our knowledge of the underlying neural mechanisms involved in binge drinking. Our previous experiments in C57BL/6J female mice found that increasing activity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) core using excitatory Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) reduced binge-like drinking. These results differed from what has been found in males; however, it is unclear whether differences in experimental procedures or sex underlie these discrepancies. We matched the conditions used in our female study and asked whether bidirectional manipulation of NAc core activity has different effects on binge-like drinking in males. Male C57BL/6J mice were stereotaxically injected with AAV2 hSyn-HA hM3Dq (excitatory), -hM4Di (inhibitory), or -eGFP bilaterally into the NAc core. We tested the effects of altering NAc activity on binge-like ethanol intake using Drinking in the Dark (DID). During the first week, mice were pre-treated with vehicle to establish baseline ethanol intake. In week 2, mice were treated with 1 mg/kg CNO prior to DID to determine the effects of DREADD-induced changes in NAc core activity on ethanol intake. Decreasing activity via CNO/hM4Di significantly decreased binge-like drinking in male mice relative to eGFP and hM4Di groups. We also measured intake of sucrose, quinine, and water after CNO treatment and found that increasing NAc core activity via CNO/hM3Dq increased quinine intake, and increased water intake over time. We did not observe significant differences in the GFP or hM4Di groups. This work suggests there exist apparent sex-related differences in NAc core contributions to binge-like alcohol drinking, thus demonstrating the need for inclusion of both sexes in future work.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and anxiety disorders are frequently comorbid and share mechanisms that could be therapeutic targets. To facilitate mechanistic studies, we adapted an inhibitory avoidance-based “2-hit” rat model of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and identified predictors and biomarkers of comorbid alcohol (ethanol)/PTSD-like symptoms in these animals. Stressed Wistar rats received a single footshock on two occasions. The first footshock occurred when rats crossed into the dark chamber of a shuttle box. Forty-eight hours later, rats received the second footshock in a familiar (FAM) or novel (NOV) context. Rats then received 4 weeks of two-bottle choice (2BC) ethanol access. During subsequent abstinence, PTSD-like behavior responses, GABAergic synaptic transmission in the central amygdala (CeA), and circulating cytokine levels were measured. FAM and NOV stress more effectively increased 2BC drinking in males and females, respectively. Stressed male rats, especially drinking-vulnerable individuals (≥0.8 g/kg average 2-h ethanol intake with >50% ethanol preference), showed higher fear overgeneralization in novel contexts, increased GABAergic transmission in the CeA, and a profile of increased G-CSF, GM-CSF, IL-13, IL-6, IL-17a, leptin, and IL-4 that discriminated between stress context (NOV > FAM > Control). However, drinking-resilient males showed the highest G-CSF, IL-13, and leptin levels. Stressed females showed increased acoustic startle and decreased sleep maintenance, indicative of hyperarousal, with increased CeA GABAergic transmission in NOV females. This paradigm promotes key features of PTSD, including hyperarousal, fear generalization, avoidance, and sleep disturbance, with comorbid ethanol intake, in a sex-specific fashion that approximates clinical comorbidities better than existing models, and identifies increased CeA GABAergic signaling and a distinct pro-hematopoietic, proinflammatory, and pro-atopic cytokine profile that may aid in treatment.
LncRNAs are important regulators of quantitative and qualitative features of the transcriptome. We have used QTL and other statistical analyses to identify a gene coexpression module associated with alcohol consumption. The “hub gene” of this module, Lrap (Long non‐coding RNA for alcohol preference), was an unannotated transcript resembling a lncRNA. We used partial correlation analyses to establish that Lrap is a major contributor to the integrity of the coexpression module. Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, we disrupted an exon of Lrap in Wistar rats. Measures of alcohol consumption in wild type, heterozygous and knockout rats showed that disruption of Lrap produced increases in alcohol consumption/alcohol preference. The disruption of Lrap also produced changes in expression of over 700 other transcripts. Furthermore, it became apparent that Lrap may have a function in alternative splicing of the affected transcripts. The GO category of “Response to Ethanol” emerged as one of the top candidates in an enrichment analysis of the differentially expressed transcripts. We validate the role of Lrap as a mediator of alcohol consumption by rats, and also implicate Lrap as a modifier of the expression and splicing of a large number of brain transcripts. A defined subset of these transcripts significantly impacts alcohol consumption by rats (and possibly humans). Our work shows the pleiotropic nature of non‐coding elements of the genome, the power of network analysis in identifying the critical elements influencing phenotypes, and the fact that not all changes produced by genetic editing are critical for the concomitant changes in phenotype.
Alcohol dependence is a chronically relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and drug-taking, loss of control in limiting intake, and the emergence of a withdrawal syndrome in the absence of the drug. Accumulating evidence suggests an important role for synaptic transmission in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) in mediating alcohol-related behaviors and neuroadaptive mechanisms associated with alcohol dependence. Acute alcohol facilitates γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic transmission in the CeA via both pre- and postsynaptic mechanisms, and chronic alcohol increases baseline GABAergic transmission. Acute alcohol inhibits glutamatergic transmission via effects at N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors in the CeA, whereas chronic alcohol up-regulates NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated transmission. Pro- (e.g., corticotropin-releasing factor [CRF]) and antistress (e.g., nociceptin/orphanin FQ, oxytocin) neuropeptides affect alcohol- and anxiety-related behaviors, and also alter the alcohol-induced effects on CeA neurotransmission. Alcohol dependence produces plasticity in these neuropeptide systems, reflecting a recruitment of those systems during the transition to alcohol dependence.
The development of CRISPR/Cas9 technology has vastly sped up the process of genome editing by introducing a bacterial system that can be exploited for reverse genetics-based research. However, generating homozygous knockout (KO) animals using traditional CRISPR/Cas9-mediated techniques requires three generations of animals. A founder animal with a desired mutation is crossed to produce heterozygous F1 offspring which are subsequently interbred to generate homozygous F2 KO animals. This study describes a novel adaptation of the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated method to develop a homozygous gene-targeted KO animal cohort in one generation. A well-characterized ethanol-responsive gene, MyD88, was chosen as a candidate gene for generation of MyD88-/- mice as proof of concept. Previous studies have reported changes in ethanol-related behavioral outcomes in MyD88 KO mice. Therefore, it was hypothesized that a successful one-generation KO of MyD88 should reproduce decreased responses to ethanols sedative effects, as well as increased ethanol consumption in males that were observed in previous studies. One-cell mouse embryos were simultaneously electroporated with four gRNAs targeting a critical Exon of MyD88 along with Cas9. DNA and RNA analysis of founder mice revealed a complex mix of genetic alterations, all of which were predicted to ablate MyD88 gene function. This study additionally compared responses of Mock treatment control mice generated through electroporation to controls purchased from a vendor. No substantial behavioral changes were noted between control cohorts. Overall, the CRISPR/Cas9 KO protocol reported here, which we call CRISPR Turbo Accelerated KnockOut (CRISPy TAKO), will be useful for reverse genetic in vivo screens of gene function in whole animals.
Genetically‐selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol‐preferring (msP) rats display comorbid symptoms of increased alcohol preference and elevated anxiety‐like behavior. Heightened stress sensitivity in msPs is influenced by genetic polymorphisms of the corticotropin‐releasing factor receptor in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), as well as reduced influence of anti‐stress mechanisms that normally constrain the stress response. Given this propensity for stress dysregulation, in this study, we expand on the possibility that msPs may display differences in neuroendocrine processes that normally terminate the stress response. We utilized behavioral, biochemical, and molecular assays to compare basal and restraint stress‐induced changes in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis of male and female msPs relative to their nonselected Wistar counterparts. The results showed that msPs display deficits in marble‐burying behavior influenced by environmental factors and procedures that modulate arousal states in a sex‐dependent manner. Whereas male msPs display evidence of dysregulated neuroendocrine function (higher adrenocorticotropic hormone levels and subthreshold reductions in corticosterone), females display restraint‐induced elevations in corticosterone levels that were persistently higher in msPs. A dexamethasone challenge reduced the circulation of these stress hormones, although the reduction in corticosterone was generally attenuated in msP versus Wistar rats. Finally, we found evidence of diminished stress‐induced glucocorticoid receptor (GR) phosphorylation in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus of msPs, as well as innate increases in phosphorylated GR levels in the CeA of male msPs. Collectively, these findings suggest that negative feedback processes regulating HPA responsiveness are diminished in msP rats, possibly underlying differences in the expression of anxiety‐like behaviors.
Of the more than 100 studies that have examined relationships between excessive ethanol consumption and the brain transcriptome, few rodent studies have examined chronic consumption. Heterogeneous stock collaborative cross mice freely consumed ethanol vs. water for 3 months. Transcriptional differences were examined for the central nucleus of the amygdala, a brain region known to impact ethanol preference. Early preference was modestly predictive of final preference and there was significant escalation of preference in females only. Genes significantly correlated with female preference were enriched in annotations for the primary cilium and extracellular matrix. A single module in the gene co-expression network was enriched in genes with an astrocyte annotation. The key hub node was the master regulator, orthodenticle homeobox 2 (Otx2). These data support an important role for the extracellular matrix, primary cilium and astrocytes in ethanol preference and consumption differences among individual female mice of a genetically diverse population.
Recent studies show that alcohol exposure can induce glial production of neuroimmune factors in the CNS. Of these, IL-6 has gained attention because it is involved in a number of important physiological and pathophysiological processes that could be affected by alcohol-induced CNS production of IL-6, particularly under conditions of excessive alcohol use. For example, IL-6 has been shown to play a role in hippocampal behaviors and synaptic plasticity (long-term potentiation; LTP) associated with memory and learning. Surprisingly, in our in vitro studies of LTP at the Schaffer collateral to CA1 pyramidal neuron synapse in hippocampus from transgenic mice that express elevated levels of astrocyte produced IL-6 (TG), LTP was not altered by the increased levels of IL-6. However, exposure to acute alcohol revealed neuroadaptive changes that served to protect LTP against the alcohol-induced reduction of LTP observed in hippocampus from non-transgenic control mice (WT). Here we examined the induction phase of LTP to assess if presynaptic neuroadaptive changes occurred in the hippocampus of TG mice that contributed to the resistance of LTP to alcohol. Results are consistent with a role for IL-6-induced neuroadaptive effects on presynaptic mechanisms involved in transmitter release in the resistance of LTP to alcohol in hippocampus from the TG mice. These actions are important with respect to a role for IL-6 in physiological and pathophysiological processes in the CNS and in CNS actions of alcohol, especially when excessive alcohol used is comorbid with conditions associated with elevated levels of IL-6 in the CNS.
Previous studies have shown the presence of several subunits of the inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) in the reward system, specifically in medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the nucleus Accumbens (nAc). It was suggested that GlyR α1 subunits regulate nAc excitability and ethanol consumption. However, little is known about the role of the α2 subunit in the adult brain since it is a subunit highly expressed during early brain development. In this study, we used genetically modified mice with a mutation (KR389–390AA) in the intracellular loop of the GlyR α2 subunit which results in a heteromeric α2β receptor that is insensitive to ethanol. Using this mouse model denoted knock-in α2 (KI α2), our electrophysiological studies showed that neurons in the adult nAc expressed functional KI GlyRs that were rather insensitive to ethanol when compared with WT GlyRs. In behavioral tests, the KI α2 mice did not show any difference in basal motor coordination, locomotor activity, or conditioned place preference compared with WT littermate controls. In terms of ethanol response, KI α2 male mice recovered faster from the administration of ataxic and sedative doses of ethanol. Furthermore, KI α2 mice consumed higher amounts of ethanol in the first days of the drinking in the dark protocol, as compared with WT mice. These results show that the α2 subunit is important for the potentiation of GlyRs in the adult brain and this might result in reduced sedation and increased ethanol consumption.
Astrocytes are fundamental building blocks of the central nervous system. Their dysfunction has been implicated in many psychiatric disorders, including alcohol use disorder, yet our understanding of their functional role in ethanol intoxication and consumption is very limited. Astrocytes regulate behavior through multiple intracellular signaling pathways, including G-protein coupled-receptor (GPCR)-mediated calcium signals. To test the hypothesis that GPCR-induced calcium signaling is also involved in the behavioral effects of ethanol, we expressed astrocyte-specific excitatory DREADDs in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of mice. Activating Gq-GPCR signaling in PFC astrocytes increased drinking in ethanol-naïve mice, but not in mice with a history of ethanol drinking. In contrast, reducing calcium signaling with an astrocyte-specific calcium extruder reduced ethanol intake. Cortical astrocyte calcium signaling also altered the acute stimulatory and sedative-hypnotic effects of ethanol. Astrocyte-specific Gq-DREADD activation increased both the locomotor-activating effects of low dose ethanol and the sedative-hypnotic effects of a high dose, while reduced astrocyte calcium signaling diminished sensitivity to the hypnotic effects. In addition, we found that adenosine A1 receptors were required for astrocyte calcium activation to increase ethanol sedation. These results support integral roles for PFC astrocytes in the behavioral actions of ethanol that are due, at least in part, to adenosine receptor activation.
Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are prevalent, and are characterized by binge-like drinking, defined by patterns of focused drinking where dosages ingested in 2–4 h reach intoxicating blood alcohol levels (BALs). Current medications are few and compliance with the relatively rare prescribed usage is low. Hence, novel and more effective medications are needed. We developed a mouse model of genetic risk for binge drinking (HDID: High Drinking in the Dark mice) by selectively breeding for high BALs after binge drinking. A transcriptional analysis of HDID brain tissue with RNA-Seq implicated neuroinflammatory mechanisms, and, more specifically extracellular matrix genes, including those encoding matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Prior experiments from other groups have shown that the tetracycline derivatives doxycycline, minocycline, and tigecycline, reduce binge drinking in inbred C57BL/6J mice. We tested these three compounds in female and male HDID mice and found that all three reduced DID and BAL. They had drug-specific effects on intake of water or saccharin in the DID assay. Thus, our results show that the effectiveness of synthetic tetracycline derivatives as potential therapeutic agents for AUDs is not limited to the single C57BL/6J genotype previously targeted, but extends to a mouse model of a population at high risk for AUDs.
Pharmacological studies implicate toll‐like receptor 3 (TLR3) signaling in alcohol drinking. We examined the role of TLR3 in behavioral responses to alcohol and GABAergic drugs by studying Tlr3−/− mice. Because of opposing signaling between TLR3 and MyD88 pathways, we also evaluated Myd88−/− mice. Ethanol consumption and preference decreased in male but not in female Tlr3−/− mice during two‐bottle choice every‐other‐day (2BC‐EOD) drinking. There were no genotype differences in either sex during continuous or limited‐access drinking. Null mutations in Tlr3 or Myd88 did not alter conditioned taste aversion to alcohol and had small or no effects on conditioned place preference. The Tlr3 null mutation did not alter acute alcohol withdrawal. Male, but not female, Tlr3−/− mice took longer than wild‐type littermates to recover from ataxia by ethanol or diazepam and longer to recover from sedative‐hypnotic effects of ethanol or gaboxadol, indicating regulation of GABAergic signaling by TLR3. Acute functional tolerance (AFT) to alcohol‐induced ataxia was decreased in Tlr3−/− mice but was increased in Myd88−/− mice. Thus, MyD88 and TLR3 pathways coordinately regulate alcohol consumption and tolerance to intoxicating doses of alcohol and GABAergic drugs. Despite similar alcohol metabolism and similar amounts of total alcohol consumed during 2BC and 2BC‐EOD procedures in C57BL/6J mice, only 2BC‐EOD drinking induced tolerance to alcohol‐induced ataxia. Ataxia recovery was inversely correlated with level of drinking in wild‐type and Tlr3−/− littermates. Thus, deleting Tlr3 reduces alcohol consumption by reducing AFT to alcohol and not by altering tolerance induced by 2BC‐EOD drinking.
Nucleus accumbens dopamine D1 receptor-expressing medium spiny neurons (D1-MSNs) have been implicated in the formation of dependence to many drugs of abuse including alcohol. Previous studies have revealed that acute alcohol exposure suppresses glutamatergic signaling within the accumbens and repeated alcohol exposure enhances glutamatergic signaling. D1-MSNs receive glutamatergic input from several brain regions and it is not currently known how individual inputs onto D1-MSNs are altered by alcohol experience. To Address this, we used virally mediated expression of Channelrhodopsin (ChR2) in ventral hippocampal (vHipp) glutamate neurons to selectively activate vHipp to D1-MSN synapses and compared synaptic adaptations in response to low and high alcohol experience in vitro and in vivo. Alcohol experience enhanced glutamatergic activity and abolished long-term depression (LTD) at ventral hippocampal (vHipp) to D1-MSN synapses. Following chronic alcohol experience GluA2-lacking AMPA receptors, which are Ca-permeable, were inserted into vHipp to D1-MSN synapses. These alcohol-induced adaptations of glutamatergic signaling occurred at lower levels of exposure than previously reported. The loss of LTD expression and enhancement in glutamatergic signaling from the vHipp to D1-MSNs in the nucleus accumbens may play a critical role in the formation of alcohol dependence and enhancements in ethanol consumption. Reversal of alcohol-induced insertion of Ca-permeable AMPA receptors and enhancement of glutamatergic activity at vHipp to D1-MSNs presents potential targets for intervention during early exposure to alcohol.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The work presented here is the first to elucidate how an individual glutamatergic input onto D1-MSNs of the accumbens shell (shNAc) are altered by repeated ethanol exposure. Our findings suggest that glutamatergic input from the ventral hippocampus (vHipp) onto D1-MSNs is enhanced following drinking in a two-bottle choice (2BC) paradigm and is further enhanced by chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) vapor exposure which escalated volitional ethanol intake. A critical finding was the insertion of Ca-permeable AMPA receptors into vHipp-shNAc D1-MSN synapses following CIE exposure, and more importantly following ethanol consumption in the absence of vapor exposure. These findings suggest that enhancements of glutamatergic input from the vHipp and insertion of Ca-permeable AMPARs play a role in the formation of ethanol dependence.
The pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) system plays a central role in the brain's emotional response to psychological stress by activating cellular processes and circuits associated with threat exposure. The neuropeptide PACAP and its main receptor PAC1 are expressed in the rodent central amygdala (CeA), a brain region critical in negative emotional processing, and CeA PACAPergic signaling drives anxiogenic and stress coping behaviors. Despite this behavioral evidence, PACAP's effects on neuronal activity within the medial subdivision of the CeA (CeM, the major output nucleus for the entire amygdala complex) during basal conditions and after psychological stress remain unknown. Therefore, in the present study, male Wistar rats were subjected to either restraint stress or control conditions, and PACAPergic regulation of CeM cellular function was assessed using immunohistochemistry and whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology. Our results demonstrate that PACAP-38 potentiates GABA release in the CeM of naïve rats, via its actions at presynaptic PAC1. Basal PAC1 activity also enhances GABA release in an action potential-dependent manner. Notably, PACAP-38's facilitation of CeM GABA release was attenuated after a single restraint stress session, but after repeated sessions returned to the level observed in naïve animals. A single restraint session also significantly decreased PAC1 levels in the CeM, with repeated restraint sessions producing a slight recovery. Collectively our data reveal that PACAP/PAC1 signaling enhances inhibitory control of the CeM and that psychological stress can modulate this influence to potentially disinhibit downstream effector regions that mediate anxiety and stress-related behaviors.