Publications

2019
Kapoor M, Farris SP, Liu Y, McClintick J, Gupta I, Meyers JL, Bertelsen S, Chao M, Nurnberger J, Tischfield J, et al. Analysis of whole genome-transcriptomic organization in brain to identify genes associated with alcoholism. Translational Psychiatry [Internet]. 2019;9 :89. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Alcohol exposure triggers changes in gene expression and biological pathways in human brain. We explored alterations in gene expression in the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) of 65 alcoholics and 73 controls of European descent, and identified 129 genes that showed altered expression (FDR < 0.05) in subjects with alcohol dependence. Differentially expressed genes were enriched for pathways related to interferon signaling and Growth Arrest and DNA Damage-inducible 45 (GADD45) signaling. A coexpression module (thistle2) identified by weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) was significantly correlated with alcohol dependence, alcohol consumption, and AUDIT scores. Genes in the thistle2 module were enriched with genes related to calcium signaling pathways and showed significant downregulation of these pathways, as well as enrichment for biological processes related to nicotine response and opioid signaling. A second module (brown4) showed significant upregulation of pathways related to immune signaling. Expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) for genes in the brown4 module were also enriched for genetic associations with alcohol dependence and alcohol consumption in large genome-wide studies included in the Psychiatric Genetic Consortium and the UK Biobank’s alcohol consumption dataset. By leveraging multi-omics data, this transcriptome analysis has identified genes and biological pathways that could provide insight for identifying therapeutic targets for alcohol dependence.
Johnson KA, Liput DJ, Homanics GE, DM L. Age-dependent impairment of metabotropic glutamate receptor 2-dependent long-term depression in the mouse striatum by chronic ethanol exposure. Alcohol [Internet]. 2019;82 :11-21. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chronic alcohol exposure is associated with increased reliance on behavioral strategies involving the dorsolateral striatum (DLS), including habitual or stimulus-response behaviors. Presynaptic G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) on cortical and thalamic inputs to the DLS inhibit glutamate release, and alcohol-induced disruption of presynaptic GPCR function represents a mechanism by which alcohol could disinhibit DLS neurons and thus bias toward use of DLS-dependent behaviors. Metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGlu2) is a Gi/o-coupled GPCR that robustly modulates glutamate transmission in the DLS, inducing long-term depression (LTD) at both cortical and thalamic synapses. Loss of mGlu2 function has recently been associated with increased ethanol seeking and consumption, but the ability of alcohol to produce adaptations in mGlu2 function in the DLS has not been investigated. We exposed male C57Bl/6J mice to a 2-week chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) paradigm followed by a brief withdrawal period, then used whole-cell patch clamp recordings of glutamatergic transmission in the striatum to assess CIE effects on mGlu2-mediated synaptic plasticity. We report that CIE differentially disrupts mGlu2-mediated long-term depression in the DLS vs. dorsomedial striatum (DMS). Interestingly, CIE-induced impairment of mGlu2-LTD in the dorsolateral striatum is only observed when alcohol exposure occurs during adolescence. Incubation of striatal slices from CIE-exposed adolescent mice with a positive allosteric modulator of mGlu2 fully rescues mGlu2-LTD. In contrast to the 2-week CIE paradigm, acute exposure of striatal slices to ethanol concentrations that mimic ethanol levels during CIE exposure fails to disrupt mGlu2-LTD. We did not observe a reduction of mGlu2 mRNA or protein levels following CIE exposure, suggesting that alcohol effects on mGlu2 occur at the functional level. Our findings contribute to growing evidence that adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to certain alcohol-induced neuroadaptations, and identify enhancement of mGlu2 activity as a strategy to reverse the effects of adolescent alcohol exposure on DLS physiology.
Jimenez VA, Herman MA, Cuzon Carlson VC, Walter NA, Grant KA, M R. Synaptic adaptations in the central amygdala and hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus associated with protracted ethanol abstinence in male rhesus monkeys. Neuropsychopharmacology [Internet]. 2019;44 (5) :982–993. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Alcohol use disorder is a significant global burden. Stress has been identified as an etiological factor in the initiation and continuation of ethanol consumption. Understanding adaptations within stress circuitry is an important step toward novel treatment strategies. The effects of protracted abstinence following long-term ethanol self-administration on the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) were evaluated in male rhesus monkeys. Using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology, inhibitory GABAergic transmission in the CeA and excitatory glutamatergic transmission in the PVN were measured. CeA neurons from abstinent drinkers displayed an elevated baseline spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic current (sIPSC) frequency compared with controls, indicating increased presynaptic GABA release. Application of acute ethanol significantly increased the frequency of sIPSCs in controls, but not in abstinent drinkers, suggesting a tolerance to ethanol-enhanced GABA release in abstinent rhesus monkeys with a history of chronic ethanol self-administration and repeated abstinence. In the PVN, the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSC) was elevated in abstinent drinkers compared with controls, indicating increased presynaptic glutamate release. Notably, acute ethanol decreased presynaptic glutamate release onto parvocellular PVN neurons in both controls and abstinent drinkers, suggesting a lack of tolerance to acute ethanol among PVN neurons. These results are the first to demonstrate distinct synaptic adaptations and ethanol sensitivity in both the extrahypothalamic and hypothalamic stress circuits in abstinent rhesus males. Importantly, our findings describe adaptations in stress circuitry present in the brain at a state during abstinence, just prior to relapse to ethanol drinking.
Erickson EK, Grantham EK, Warden AS, RA H. Neuroimmune signaling in alcohol use disorder. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior [Internet]. 2019;177 :34-60. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a widespread disease with limited treatment options. Targeting the neuroimmune system is a new avenue for developing or repurposing effective pharmacotherapies. Alcohol modulates innate immune signaling in different cell types in the brain by altering gene expression and the molecular pathways that regulate neuroinflammation. Chronic alcohol abuse may cause an imbalance in neuroimmune function, resulting in prolonged perturbations in brain function. Likewise, manipulating the neuroimmune system may change alcohol-related behaviors. Psychiatric disorders that are comorbid with AUD, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and other substance use disorders, may also have underlying neuroimmune mechanisms; current evidence suggests that convergent immune pathways may be involved in AUD and in these comorbid disorders. In this review, we provide an overview of major neuroimmune cell-types and pathways involved in mediating alcohol behaviors, discuss potential mechanisms of alcohol-induced neuroimmune activation, and present recent clinical evidence for candidate immune-related drugs to treat AUD.
Homanics GE. Gene-edited CRISPy Critters for alcohol research. Alcohol [Internet]. 2019;74 : 11-19. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Genetically engineered animals are powerful tools that have provided invaluable insights into mechanisms of alcohol action and alcohol-use disorder. Traditionally, production of gene-targeted animals was a tremendously expensive, time consuming, and technically demanding undertaking. However, the recent advent of facile methods for editing the genome at very high efficiency is revolutionizing how these animals are made. While pioneering approaches to create gene-edited animals first used zinc finger nucleases and subsequently used transcription activator-like effector nucleases, these approaches have been largely supplanted in an extremely short period of time with the recent discovery and precocious maturation of the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) system. CRISPR uses a short RNA sequence to guide a non-specific CRISPR-associated nuclease (Cas) to a precise, single location in the genome. Because the CRISPR/Cas system can be cheaply, rapidly, and easily reprogrammed to target nearly any genomic locus of interest simply by recoding the sequence of the guide RNA, this gene-editing system has been rapidly adopted by numerous labs around the world. With CRISPR/Cas, it is now possible to perform gene editing directly in early embryos from every species of animals that is of interest to the alcohol field. Techniques have been developed that enable the rapid production of animals in which a gene has been inactivated (knockout) or modified to harbor specific nucleotide changes (knockins). This system has also been used to insert specific DNA sequences such as reporter or recombinase genes into specific loci of interest. Genetically engineered animals created with the CRISPR/Cas system (CRISPy Critters) are being produced at an astounding pace. Animal production is no longer a significant bottleneck to new discoveries. CRISPy animal studies are just beginning to appear in the alcohol literature, but their use is expected to explode in the near future. CRISPy mice, rats, and other model organisms are sure to facilitate advances in our understanding of alcohol-use disorder.
Hauser SR, Knight CP, Truitt WA, Waeiss RA, Holt IS, Carvajal GB, Bell RL, ZA R. Adolescent Intermittent Ethanol Increases the Sensitivity to the Reinforcing Properties of Ethanol and the Expression of Select Cholinergic and Dopaminergic Genes within the Posterior Ventral Tegmental Area. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research [Internet]. 2019;43 (9) :1937-1948. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background

Although not legally allowed to consume alcohol, adolescents account for 11% of all alcohol use in the United States and approximately 90% of adolescent intake is in the form of an alcohol binge. The adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) model developed by the NADIA consortium produces binge‐like EtOH exposure episodes. The current experiment examined the effects of AIE on the reinforcing properties of EtOH and genetic expression of cholinergic and dopaminergic factors within the posterior ventral tegmental area (pVTA) in Wistar male and female rats and in male alcohol‐preferring (P) rats.

Methods

Rats were exposed to the AIE or water during adolescence, and all testing occurred during adulthood. Wistar control and AIE rats were randomly assigned to groups that self‐administered 0 to 200 mg% EtOH. Male P rats self‐administered 0 to 100 mg%.

Results

The data indicated that exposure to AIE in both Wistar male and female rats (and male P rats) resulted in a significant leftward shift in dose–response curve for EtOH self‐administration into the pVTA. TaqMan array indicated that AIE exposure had divergent effects on the expression of nicotinic receptors (increased a7, reduction in a4 and a5). There were also sex‐specific effects of AIE on gene expression; male only reduction in D3 receptors.

Conclusion

Binge‐like EtOH exposure during adolescence enhances the sensitivity to the reinforcing properties of EtOH during adulthood which could be part of biological sequelae that are the basis for the deleterious effects of adolescent alcohol consumption on the rate of alcoholism during adulthood.

Hauser SR, Deehan GA Jr, Knight CP, Waeiss RA, Truitt WA, Johnson PL, Bell RL, McBride WJ, ZA R. Conditioned stimuli affect ethanol-seeking by female alcohol-preferring (P) rats: the role of repeated-deprivations, cue-pretreatment, and cue-temporal intervals. Psychopharmacology [Internet]. 2019;236 (9) :2835-2846. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Rationale

Evidence indicates that drug-paired stimuli can evoke drug-craving leading to drug-seeking and repeated relapse periods can influence drug-seeking behaviors.

Objectives

The present study examined (1) the effect of an interaction between repeated deprivation cycles and excitatory conditioning stimuli (CS+) on ethanol (EtOH)-seeking; (2) the effects of EtOH-paired cue-exposure in a non-drug-paired environment on subsequent conditioning in a drug-paired environment; and (3) the temporal effects of conditioned cues on subsequent EtOH-seeking.

Methods

Adult female alcohol-preferring (P) rats were exposed to three conditioned odor cues; CS+ associated with EtOH self-administration, CS− associated with the absence of EtOH (extinction training), and a neutral stimulus (CS0) presented in a neutral non-drug-paired environment. The rats underwent four deprivation cycles or were non-deprived, following extinction they were maintained in a home cage for an EtOH-free period, and then exposed to no cue, CS+, CS−, or CS0 to assess the effect of the conditioned cues on EtOH-seeking behavior.

Results

 

Repeated deprivations enhanced and prolonged the duration of CS+ effects on EtOH-seeking. Presentation of the CS− in a non-drug-paired environment blocked the ability of a CS+ to enhance EtOH-seeking in a drug-paired environment. Presentation of the CS+ or CS− in a non-drug-paired environment 2 or 4 h earlier significantly altered EtOH-seeking.

Conclusion

Results indicated an interaction between repeated deprivation cycles and CS+ resulted in a potentiation of CS+ evoked EtOH-seeking. In addition, a CS− may have therapeutic potential by providing prophylactic protection against relapse behavior in the presence of cues in the drug-using environment.

 

Ferguson LB, Zhang L, Kircher D, Wang S, RD M, Crabbe JC, RA M, RA H, Ponomarev I. Dissecting Brain Networks Underlying Alcohol Binge Drinking Using a Systems Genomics Approach. Molecular Neurobiology [Internet]. 2019;56 (4) :2791-2810. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a complex psychiatric disorder with strong genetic and environmental risk factors. We studied the molecular perturbations underlying risky drinking behavior by measuring transcriptome changes across the neurocircuitry of addiction in a genetic mouse model of binge drinking. Sixteen generations of selective breeding for high blood alcohol levels after a binge drinking session produced global changes in brain gene expression in alcohol-naïve High Drinking in the Dark (HDID-1) mice. Using gene expression profiles to generate circuit-level hypotheses, we developed a systems approach that integrated regulation of gene coexpression networks across multiple brain regions, neuron-specific transcriptional signatures, and knowledgebase analytics. Whole-cell, voltage-clamp recordings from nucleus accumbens shell neurons projecting to the ventral tegmental area showed differential ethanol-induced plasticity in HDID-1 and control mice and provided support for one of the hypotheses. There were similarities in gene networks between HDID-1 mouse brains and postmortem brains of human alcoholics, suggesting that some gene expression patterns associated with high alcohol consumption are conserved across species. This study demonstrated the value of gene networks for data integration across biological modalities and species to study mechanisms of disease.
Ferguson LB, Patil S, Moskowitz BA, Ponomarev I, RA H, RD M, Messing RO. A Pathway-Based Genomic Approach to Identify Medications: Application to Alcohol Use Disorder. Brain Sciences [Internet]. 2019;9 (12) :E381. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chronic, excessive alcohol use alters brain gene expression patterns, which could be important for initiating, maintaining, or progressing the addicted state. It has been proposed that pharmaceuticals with opposing effects on gene expression could treat alcohol use disorder (AUD). Computational strategies comparing gene expression signatures of disease to those of pharmaceuticals show promise for nominating novel treatments. We reasoned that it may be sufficient for a treatment to target the biological pathway rather than lists of individual genes perturbed by AUD. We analyzed published and unpublished transcriptomic data using gene set enrichment of Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways to identify biological pathways disrupted in AUD brain and by compounds in the Library of Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS L1000) and Connectivity Map (CMap) databases. Several pathways were consistently disrupted in AUD brain, including an up-regulation of genes within the Complement and Coagulation Cascade, Focal Adhesion, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and MAPK signaling, and a down-regulation of genes within the Oxidative Phosphorylation pathway, strengthening evidence for their importance in AUD. Over 200 compounds targeted genes within those pathways in an opposing manner, more than twenty of which have already been shown to affect alcohol consumption, providing confidence in our approach. We created a user-friendly web-interface that researchers can use to identify drugs that target pathways of interest or nominate mechanism of action for drugs. This study demonstrates a unique systems pharmacology approach that can nominate pharmaceuticals that target pathways disrupted in disease states such as AUD and identify compounds that could be repurposed for AUD if sufficient evidence is attained in preclinical studies
Fama R, Le Berre AP, Hardcastle C, Sassoon SA, Pfefferbaum A, EV S, NM Z. Neurological, nutritional and alcohol consumption factors underlie cognitive and motor deficits in chronic alcoholism. Addiction Biology [Internet]. 2019;24 (2) :290-302. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Variations in pattern and extent of cognitive and motor impairment occur in alcoholism (ALC). Causes of such heterogeneity are elusive and inconsistently accounted for by demographic or alcohol consumption differences. We examined neurological and nutritional factors as possible contributors to heterogeneity in impairment. Participants with ALC (n = 96) and a normal comparison group (n = 41) were examined on six cognitive and motor domains. Signs of historically determined subclinical Wernicke's encephalopathy were detected using the Caine et al. criteria, which were based on postmortem examination and chart review of antemortem data of alcoholic cases with postmortem evidence for Wernicke's encephalopathy. Herein, four Caine criteria provided quantification of dietary deficiency, cerebellar dysfunction, low general cognitive functioning and oculomotor abnormalities in 86 of the 96 ALC participants. Subgroups based on Caine criteria yielded a graded effect, where those meeting more criteria exhibited greater impairment than those meeting no to fewer criteria. These results could not be accounted for by history of drug dependence. Multiple regression indicated that compromised performance on ataxia, indicative of cerebellar dysfunction, predicted non‐mnemonic and upper motor deficits, whereas low whole blood thiamine level, consistent with limbic circuit dysfunction, predicted mnemonic deficits. This double dissociation indicates biological markers that contribute to heterogeneity in expression of functional impairment in ALC. That non‐mnemonic and mnemonic deficits are subserved by the dissociable neural systems of frontocerebellar and limbic circuitry, both commonly disrupted in ALC, suggests neural mechanisms that can differentially affect selective functions, thereby contributing to heterogeneity in pattern and extent of dysfunction in ALC.
Erickson EK, Blednov YA, RA H, RD M. Glial gene networks associated with alcohol dependence. Scientific Reports [Internet]. 2019;9 (1) :10949. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Chronic alcohol abuse alters the molecular structure and function of brain cells. Recent work suggests adaptations made by glial cells, such as astrocytes and microglia, regulate physiological and behavioral changes associated with addiction. Defining how alcohol dependence alters the transcriptome of different cell types is critical for developing the mechanistic hypotheses necessary for a nuanced understanding of cellular signaling in the alcohol-dependent brain. We performed RNA-sequencing on total homogenate and glial cell populations isolated from mouse prefrontal cortex (PFC) following chronic intermittent ethanol vapor exposure (CIE). Compared with total homogenate, we observed unique and robust gene expression changes in astrocytes and microglia in response to CIE. Gene co-expression network analysis revealed biological pathways and hub genes associated with CIE in astrocytes and microglia that may regulate alcohol-dependent phenotypes. Astrocyte identity and synaptic calcium signaling genes were enriched in alcohol-associated astrocyte networks, while TGF-β signaling and inflammatory response genes were disrupted by CIE treatment in microglia gene networks. Genes related to innate immune signaling, specifically interferon pathways, were consistently up-regulated across CIE-exposed astrocytes, microglia, and total homogenate PFC tissue. This study illuminates the cell-specific effects of chronic alcohol exposure and provides novel molecular targets for studying alcohol dependence.
de Guglielmo G, Kallupi M, Pomrenze MB, Crawford E, Simpson S, Schweitzer P, Koob GF, Messing RO, O G. Inactivation of a CRF-dependent amygdalofugal pathway reverses addiction-like behaviors in alcohol-dependent rats. Nature Communications [Internet]. 2019;10 (1) :1238. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The activation of a neuronal ensemble in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) during alcohol withdrawal has been hypothesized to induce high levels of alcohol drinking in dependent rats. In the present study we describe that the CeA neuronal ensemble that is activated by withdrawal from chronic alcohol exposure contains ~80% corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) neurons and that the optogenetic inactivation of these CeA CRF+ neurons prevents recruitment of the neuronal ensemble, decreases the escalation of alcohol drinking, and decreases the intensity of somatic signs of withdrawal. Optogenetic dissection of the downstream neuronal pathways demonstrates that the reversal of addiction-like behaviors is observed after the inhibition of CeA CRF projections to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and that inhibition of the CRFCeA-BNST pathway is mediated by inhibition of the CRF-CRF1 system and inhibition of BNST cell firing. These results suggest that the CRFCeA-BNST pathway could be targeted for the treatment of excessive drinking in alcohol use disorder.
Crabbe JC, Metten P, Savarese AM, Ozburn AR, Schlumbohm JP, Spence SE, Hack WR. Ethanol Conditioned Taste Aversion in High Drinking in the Dark Mice. Brain Sciences [Internet]. 2019;9 (1) :E2. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Two independent lines of High Drinking in the Dark (HDID-1, HDID-2) mice have been bred to reach high blood alcohol levels after a short period of binge-like ethanol drinking. Male mice of both lines were shown to have reduced sensitivity to develop a taste aversion to a novel flavor conditioned by ethanol injections as compared with their unselected HS/NPT founder stock. We have subsequently developed inbred variants of each line. The current experiments established that reduced ethanol-conditioned taste aversion is also seen in the inbred variants, in both males and females. In other experiments, we asked whether HDID mice would ingest sufficient doses of ethanol to lead to a conditioned taste aversion upon retest. Different manipulations were used to elevate consumption of ethanol on initial exposure. Access to increased ethanol concentrations, to multiple tubes of ethanol, and fluid restriction to increase thirst motivation all enhanced initial drinking of ethanol. Each condition led to reduced intake the next day, consistent with a mild conditioned taste aversion. These experiments support the conclusion that one reason contributing to the willingness of HDID mice to drink to the point of intoxication is a genetic insensitivity to the aversive effects of ethanol. 
Chung T, RA H. Cannabis and Alcohol: From Basic Science to Public Policy. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research [Internet]. 2019;43 (9) :1829-1833. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The emergence of state‐level approval of cannabis for both medical and recreational use is likely to increase the already prevalent co‐use of alcohol and cannabis (Yurasek et al., 2017) and raise many important health and social concerns (National Academies of Sciences, 2017). Cannabis research has lagged behind that of alcohol research, but important studies are emerging on the interactions between alcohol and cannabinoids. In this Virtual Issue, Cannabis and Alcohol: From Basic Science to Public Policy, we present 9 leading‐edge research publications spanning preclinical and epidemiological studies, as well as a critical review of the potential therapeutic use of cannabidiol (CBD) in the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD) (Turna et al., 2019), which recently appeared in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The Virtual Issue addresses the potential risks and benefits of alcohol and cannabis co‐use, which may depend on the particular subgroup of individuals, and whether these drugs are used simultaneously (i.e., drug effects overlap) (Pakula et al., 2009) or concurrently (i.e., drug effects do not overlap in time) (Subbaraman et al., 2019). Simultaneous drug use may be perceived as a means to complement or enhance the effects of each substance (Patrick et al., 2018), despite some individuals reporting negative effects (Lee et al., 2017). The positive perception of complementary drug effects is concerning given the greater health risks associated with simultaneous use (Volkow et al., 2014; Yurasek et al., 2017). Another pattern of use has also developed that substitutes cannabis for alcohol use, particularly in individuals who are making efforts to reduce alcohol intake (Subbaraman, 2016). As summarized in the sections below, this Virtual Issue provides a current assessment of cannabis–alcohol interactions and shows patterns of drug use and risk profiles that may impact the prevalence of co‐use and dependence.

WY C, H Z, E G, EJ G, Pandey SC, Lasek AW. The histone deacetylase inhibitor suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA) alleviates depression-like behavior and normalizes epigenetic changes in the hippocampus during ethanol withdrawal. Alcohol [Internet]. 2019;78 :79-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Withdrawal from chronic alcohol drinking can cause depression, leading to an inability to function in daily life and an increased risk for relapse to harmful drinking. Understanding the causes of alcohol withdrawal-related depression may lead to new therapeutic targets for treatment. Epigenetic factors have recently emerged as important contributors to both depression and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Specifically, acetylation of the N-terminal tails of histone proteins that package DNA into nucleosomes is altered in stress-induced models of depression and during alcohol withdrawal. The goal of this study was to examine depression-like behavior during alcohol withdrawal and associated changes in histone acetylation and expression of histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for mood regulation and depression. Male Sprague–Dawley rats were treated with the Lieber-DeCarli ethanol liquid diet for 15 days and then underwent withdrawal. Rats were treated with the HDAC inhibitor, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA), during withdrawal and were tested for depression-like behavior. In a separate group of rats, the hippocampus was analyzed for mRNA and protein expression of HDAC2 and levels of histone H3 lysine 9 acetylation (H3K9ac) during chronic ethanol exposure and withdrawal. Rats undergoing ethanol withdrawal exhibited depression-like behavior and had increased HDAC2 and decreased H3K9ac levels in specific structures of the hippocampus. Treatment with SAHA during withdrawal ameliorated depression-like behavior and normalized changes in hippocampal HDAC2 and H3K9ac levels. These results demonstrate that ethanol withdrawal causes an altered epigenetic state in the hippocampus. Treatment with an HDAC inhibitor can correct this state and alleviate depression-like symptoms developed during withdrawal. Targeting histone acetylation may be a novel strategy to reduce ethanol withdrawal-induced depression.
Blednov YA, Bajo M, Roberts AJ, Da Costa AJ, Black M, Edmunds S, Mayfield J, M R, Homanics GE, Lasek AW, et al. Scn4b regulates the hypnotic effects of ethanol and other sedative drugs. Genes Brain and Behavior [Internet]. 2019;18 (6) :e12562. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The voltage‐gated sodium channel subunit β4 (SCN4B) regulates neuronal activity by modulating channel gating and has been implicated in ethanol consumption in rodent models and human alcoholics. However, the functional role for Scn4b in ethanol‐mediated behaviors is unknown. We determined if genetic global knockout (KO) or targeted knockdown of Scn4b in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) altered ethanol drinking or related behaviors. We used four different ethanol consumption procedures (continuous and intermittent two‐bottle choice (2BC), drinking‐in‐the dark and chronic intermittent ethanol vapor) and found that male and female Scn4b KO mice did not differ from their wild‐type (WT) littermates in ethanol consumption in any of the tests. Knockdown of Scn4b mRNA in the CeA also did not alter 2BC ethanol drinking. However, Scn4b KO mice showed longer duration of the loss of righting reflex induced by ethanol, gaboxadol, pentobarbital and ketamine. KO mice showed slower recovery to basal levels of handling‐induced convulsions after ethanol injection, which is consistent with the increased sedative effects observed in these mice. However, Scn4b KO mice did not differ in the severity of acute ethanol withdrawal. Acoustic startle responses, ethanol‐induced hypothermia and clearance of blood ethanol also did not differ between the genotypes. There were also no functional differences in the membrane properties or excitability of CeA neurons from Scn4b KO and WT mice. Although we found no evidence that Scn4b regulates ethanol consumption in mice, it was involved in the acute hypnotic effects of ethanol and other sedatives.
Bickel WK, Crabbe JC, KJ S. What Is Addiction? How Can Animal and Human Research Be Used to Advance Research, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Alcohol and Other Substance Use Disorders?. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research [Internet]. 2019;43 (1) :6-21. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The current article highlights key issues in defining, studying, and treating addiction, a concept related to but distinct from substance use disorders. The discussion is based upon a roundtable discussion at the 2017 annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism where Warren K. Bickel and John C. Crabbe were charged with answering a range of questions posed by Kenneth J. Sher. All the presenters highlighted a number of central concerns for those interested in assessing and treating addiction as well as those seeking to conduct basic preclinical research that is amenable to meaningful translation to the human condition. In addition, the discussion illustrated both the power and limitations of using any single theory to explain multiple phenomena subsumed under the rubric of addiction. Among the major issues examined were the important differences between traditional diagnostic approaches and current concepts of addiction, the difficulty of modeling key aspects of human addiction in nonhuman animals, key aspects of addiction that have, to date, received little empirical attention, and the importance of thinking of recovery as a phenomenon that possibly involves processes distinct from those undergirding the development and maintenance of addiction.
Ben Hamida S, Boulos LJ, McNicholas M, Charbogne P, Kieffer BL. Mu opioid receptors in GABAergic neurons of the forebrain promote alcohol reward and drinking. Addiction Biology [Internet]. 2019;24 (1) :28-39. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mu opioid receptors (MORs) are widely distributed throughout brain reward circuits and their role in drug and social reward is well established. Substantial evidence has implicated MOR and the endogenous opioid system in alcohol reward, but circuit mechanisms of MOR‐mediated alcohol reward and intake behavior remain elusive, and have not been investigated by genetic approaches. We recently created conditional knockout (KO) mice targeting the Oprm1 gene in GABAergic forebrain neurons. These mice (Dlx‐MOR KO) show a major MOR deletion in the striatum, whereas receptors in midbrain (including the Ventral Tegmental Area or VTA) and hindbrain are intact. Here, we compared alcohol‐drinking behavior and rewarding effects in total (MOR KO) and conditional KO mice. Concordant with our previous work, MOR KO mice drank less alcohol in continuous and intermittent two‐bottle choice protocols. Remarkably, Dlx‐MOR KO mice showed reduced drinking similar to MOR KO mice, demonstrating that MOR in the forebrain is responsible for the observed phenotype. Further, alcohol‐induced conditioned place preference was detected in control but not MOR KO mice, indicating that MOR is essential for alcohol reward and again, Dlx‐MOR KO recapitulated the MOR KO phenotype. Taste preference and blood alcohol levels were otherwise unchanged in mutant lines. Together, our data demonstrate that MOR expressed in forebrain GABAergic neurons is essential for alcohol reward‐driven behaviors, including drinking and place conditioning. Challenging the prevailing VTA‐centric hypothesis, this study reveals another mechanism of MOR‐mediated alcohol reward and consumption, which does not necessarily require local VTA MORs but rather engages striatal MOR‐dependent mechanisms.
Bajo M, Patel RR, Hedges DM, FP V, Vlkolinsky R, Davis TD, Burkart MD, Blednov YA, M R. Role of MyD88 in IL-1β and ethanol modulation of GABAergic transmission in the central amygdala. Brain Sciences [Internet]. 2019;9 (12) :361. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Myeloid differentiation primary response protein (MyD88) is a critical neuroimmune adaptor protein in TLR (Toll-like receptor) and IL-1R (Interleukin-1 receptor) signaling complexes. These two pro-inflammatory families play an important role in the neurobiology of alcohol use disorder, specifically MyD88 regulates ethanol drinking, ethanol-induced sedation, and ethanol-induced deficits in motor coordination. In this study, we examined the role of MyD88 in mediating the effects of IL-1β and ethanol on GABAergic transmission in the central amygdala (CeA) of male mice using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in combination with pharmacological (AS-1, a mimetic that prevents MyD88 recruitment by IL-1R) and genetic (Myd88 knockout mice) approaches. We demonstrate through both approaches that IL-1β and ethanol’s modulatory effects at CeA GABA synapses are not dependent on MyD88. Myd88 knockout potentiated IL-1β’s actions in reducing postsynaptic GABAA receptor function. Pharmacological inhibition of MyD88 modulates IL-1β’s action at CeA GABA synapses similar to Myd88 knockout mice. Additionally, ethanol-induced CeA GABA release was greater in Myd88 knockout mice compared to wildtype controls. Thus, MyD88 is not essential to IL-1β or ethanol regulation of CeA GABA synapses but plays a role in modulating the magnitude of their effects, which may be a potential mechanism by which it regulates ethanol-related behaviors
Zhao J, Chen C, Bell RL, Qing H, Lin Z. Identification of HIVEP2 as a dopaminergic transcription factor related to substance use disorders in rats and humans. Translational Psychiatry [Internet]. 2019 :9:247. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Playing an important role in the etiology of substance use disorder (SUD), dopamine (DA) neurons are subject to various regulations but transcriptional regulations are largely understudied. For the first time, we report here that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type I Enhancer Binding Protein 2 (HIVEP2) is a dopaminergic transcriptional regulator. HIVEP2 is expressed in both the cytoplasm and nuclei of DA neurons. Therein, HIVEP2 can target the intronic sequence GTGGCTTTCT of SLC6A3 and thereby activate the gene. In naive rats from the bi-directional selectively bred substance-preferring P vs -nonpreferring NP rat model of substance abuse vulnerability, increased gene activity in males was associated with the vulnerability, whereas decreased gene activity in the females was associated with the same vulnerability. In clinical subjects, extensive and significant HIVEP2-SLC6A3 interactions were observed for SUD. Collectively, HIVEP2-mediated transcriptional mechanisms are implicated in dopaminergic pathophysiology of SUD.

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