Aminoquinoline derivatives were evaluated against a panel of receptors/channels/transporters in radioligand binding experiments. One of these derivatives (DCUK-OEt) displayed micromolar affinity for brain γ-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors. DCUK-OEt was shown to be a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of GABA currents with α1β2γ2, α1β3γ2, α5β3γ2 and α1β3δ GABAA receptors, while having no significant PAM effect on αβ receptors or α1β1γ2, α1β2γ1, α4β3γ2 or α4β3δ receptors. DCUK-OEt modulation of α1β2γ2 GABAA receptors was not blocked by flumazenil. The subunit requirements for DCUK-OEt actions distinguished DCUK-OEt from other currently known modulators of GABA function (e.g., anesthetics, neurosteroids or ethanol). Simulated docking of DCUK-OEt at the GABAA receptorsuggested that its binding site may be at the α + β- subunit interface. In slices of the central amygdala, DCUK-OEt acted primarily on extrasynaptic GABAA receptors containing the α1 subunit and generated increases in extrasynaptic "tonic" current with no significant effect on phasic responses to GABA. DCUK-OEt is a novel chemical structure acting as a PAM at particular GABAA receptors. Given that neurons in the central amygdala responding to DCUK-OEt were recently identified as relevant for alcohol dependence, DCUK-OEt should be further evaluated for the treatment of alcoholism.
Genes encoding the ρ1/2 subunits of GABAA receptors have been associated with alcohol (ethanol) dependence in humans, and ρ1 was also shown to regulate some of the behavioral effects of ethanol in animal models. Ethanol inhibits GABA-mediated responses in wild-type (WT) ρ1, but not ρ1(T6'Y) mutant receptors expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes, indicating the presence of an inhibitory site for ethanol in the second transmembrane helix. In this study, we found that ρ1(T6'Y) receptors expressed in oocytes display overall normal responses to GABA, the endogenous GABA modulator (zinc), and partial agonists (β-alanine and taurine). We generated ρ1 (T6'Y) knockin (KI) mice using CRISPR/Cas9 to test the behavioral importance of the inhibitory actions of ethanol on this receptor. Both ρ1 KI and knockout (KO) mice showed faster recovery from acute ethanol-induced motor incoordination compared to WT mice. Both KI and KO mutant strains also showed increased tolerance to motor impairment produced by ethanol. The KI mice did not differ from WT mice in other behavioral actions, including ethanol intake and preference, conditioned taste aversion to ethanol, and duration of ethanol-induced loss of righting reflex. WT and KI mice did not differ in levels of ρ1 or ρ2 mRNA in cerebellum or in ethanol clearance. Our findings indicate that the inhibitory site for ethanol in GABAA ρ1 receptors regulates acute functional tolerance to moderate ethanol intoxication. We note that low sensitivity to alcohol intoxication has been linked to risk for development of alcohol dependence in humans.
In our companion article, we examined the role of MyD88-dependent signaling in ethanol (EtOH) consumption in mice lacking key components of this inflammatory pathway and observed differential effects on drinking. Here, we studied the role of these same signaling components in the acute sedative, intoxicating, and physiological effects of EtOH. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) has been reported to strongly reduce the duration of EtOH-induced sedation, although most studies do not support its direct involvement in EtOH consumption. We examined TLR4 and other MyD88 pathway molecules to determine signaling specificity in acute EtOH-related behaviors. We also studied other GABAergic sedatives to gauge the EtOH specificity and potential role for GABA in EtOH's sedative and intoxicating effects in the mutant mice.
Loss of righting reflex (LORR) and recovery from motor incoordination were studied following acute injection of EtOH or other sedative drugs in male and female control C57BL/6J mice versus mice lacking CD14, TLR2, TLR4 (C57BL/10ScN), or MyD88. We also examined EtOH-induced hypothermia and blood EtOH clearance in these mice.
Male and female mice lacking TLR4 or MyD88 showed reduced duration of EtOH-induced LORR and faster recovery from EtOH-induced motor incoordination in the rotarod test. MyD88 knockout mice had slightly faster recovery from EtOH-induced hypothermia compared to control mice. None of the mutants differed from control mice in the rate of blood EtOH clearance. All of the mutants showed similar decreases in the duration of gaboxadol-induced LORR, but only mice lacking TLR4 were less sensitive to the sedative effects of pentobarbital. Faster recovery from diazepam-induced motor impairment was observed in CD14, TLR4, and MyD88 null mice of both sexes.
TLR4 and MyD88 were key mediators of the sedative and intoxicating effects of EtOH and GABAergic sedatives, indicating a strong influence of TLR4-MyD88 signaling on GABAergic function. Despite the involvement of TLR4 in EtOH's acute behaviors, it did not regulate EtOH consumption in any drinking model as shown in our companion article. Collectively, our studies demonstrate differential effects of TLR-MyD88 components in the acute versus chronic actions of EtOH.
The purpose of this review is to present animal research models that can be used to screen and/or repurpose medications for the treatment of alcohol abuse and dependence. The focus will be on rats and in particular selectively bred rats. Brief introductions discuss various aspects of the clinical picture, which provide characteristics of individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) to model in animals. Following this, multiple selectively bred rat lines will be described and evaluated in the context of animal models used to screen medications to treat AUDs. Next, common behavioral tests for drug efficacy will be discussed particularly as they relate to stages in the addiction cycle. Tables highlighting studies that have tested the effects of compounds using the respective techniques are included. Wherever possible the Tables are organized chronologically in ascending order to describe changes in the focus of research on AUDs over time. In general, high ethanol-consuming selectively bred rats have been used to test a wide range of compounds. Older studies usually followed neurobiological findings in the selected lines that supported an association with a propensity for high ethanol intake. Most of these tests evaluated the compound's effects on the maintenance of ethanol drinking. Very few compounds have been tested during ethanol-seeking and/or relapse and fewer still have assessed their effects during the acquisition of AUDs. Overall, while a substantial number of neurotransmitter and neuromodulatory system targets have been assessed; the roles of sex- and age-of-animal, as well as the acquisition of AUDs, ethanol-seeking and relapse continue to be factors and behaviors needing further study. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "Alcoholism".
Recent studies have demonstrated that orchestrated gene activity and expression support synchronous activity of brain networks. However, there is a paucity of information on the consequences of single gene function on overall brain functional organization and connectivity and how this translates at the behavioral level. In this study, we combined mouse mutagenesis with functional and structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine whether targeted inactivation of a single gene would modify whole-brain connectivity in live animals. The targeted gene encodes GPR88 (G protein-coupled receptor 88), an orphan G protein-coupled receptor enriched in the striatum and previously linked to behavioral traits relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders. Connectivity analysis of Gpr88-deficient mice revealed extensive remodeling of intracortical and cortico-subcortical networks. Most prominent modifications were observed at the level of retrosplenial cortex connectivity, central to the default mode network (DMN) whose alteration is considered a hallmark of many psychiatric conditions. Next, somatosensory and motor cortical networks were most affected. These modifications directly relate to sensorimotor gating deficiency reported in mutant animals and also likely underlie their hyperactivity phenotype. Finally, we identified alterations within hippocampal and dorsal striatum functional connectivity, most relevant to a specific learning deficit that we previously reported in Gpr88-/- animals. In addition, amygdala connectivity with cortex and striatum was weakened, perhaps underlying the risk-taking behavior of these animals. This is the first evidence demonstrating that GPR88 activity shapes the mouse brain functional and structural connectome. The concordance between connectivityalterations and behavior deficits observed in Gpr88-deficient mice suggests a role for GPR88 in brain communication.
Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) is a receptor tyrosine kinase recently implicated in biochemical, physiological, and behavioral responses to ethanol. Thus, manipulation of ALK signaling may represent a novel approach to treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). Ethanol induces adaptations in glutamatergic synapses onto nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh) medium spiny neurons (MSNs), and putative targets for treating AUD may be validated for further development by assessing how their manipulation modulates accumbal glutamatergic synaptic transmission and plasticity. Here, we report that Alk knockout (AlkKO) mice consumed greater doses of ethanol, relative to wild-type (AlkWT) mice, in an operant self-administration model. Using ex vivo electrophysiology to examine excitatory synaptic transmission and plasticity at NAcSh MSNs that express dopamine D1 receptors (D1MSNs), we found that the amplitude of spontaneous excitatory post-synaptic currents (EPSCs) in NAcSh D1MSNs was elevated in AlkKO mice and in the presence of an ALK inhibitor, TAE684. Furthermore, when ALK was absent or inhibited, glutamatergic synaptic plasticity - long-term depression of evoked EPSCs - in D1MSNs was attenuated. Thus, loss of ALK activity in mice is associated with elevated ethanol consumption and enhanced excitatory transmission in NAcSh D1MSNs. These findings add to the mounting evidence of a relationship between excitatory synaptic transmission onto NAcSh D1MSNs and ethanol consumption, point toward ALK as one important molecular mediator of this interaction, and further validate ALK as a target for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of AUD.
Alcohol misuse is the fifth leading risk factor for premature death and disability worldwide. Fewer than 10% of afflicted Americans receive pharmacological treatment for alcohol use disorder. Gabapentin is a calcium channel GABAergic modulator that is widely used for pain. Studies showing reduced drinking and decreased craving and alcohol-related disturbances in sleep and affect in the months following alcohol cessation suggest therapeutic potential for alcohol use disorder. Areas covered: Human laboratory and clinical studies assessing gabapentin for alcohol use disorder are reviewed. Data were obtained by searching for English peer-reviewed articles on PubMed, reference lists of identified articles, and trials registered on clinicaltrials.gov. Additionally, the mechanism of action of gabapentin specific to alcohol use disorder, and studies of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal and non-alcohol substance use disorders are summarized. Expert opinion: Alcohol use disorder represents a challenge and large, unmet medical need. Evidence from single-site studies lend support to the safety and efficacy of gabapentin as a novel treatment for alcohol use disorder, with unique benefits for alcohol-related insomnia and negative affect, relative to available treatments. Proprietary gabapentin delivery systems may open a path to pivotal trials and registration of gabapentin as a novel treatment for alcohol use disorder.
Chronic alcohol exposure produces widespread neuroadaptations and alterations in gene expression in human alcoholics and animal models. Technological advances in the past decade have increasingly highlighted the role of non-protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in the regulation of gene expression and function. These recently characterized molecules were discovered to mediate diverse processes in the central nervous system, from normal development and physiology to regulation of disease, including alcoholism and other psychiatric disorders. This review will investigate the recent studies in human alcoholics and rodent models that have profiled different classes of ncRNAs and their dynamic alcohol-dependent regulation in brain.
Background: Innate immune signaling in the brain has emerged as a contributor to many central nervous system (CNS) pathologies, including mood disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders, and addiction. Toll-like receptors (TLRs), a key component of the innate immune response, are particularly implicated in neuroimmune dysfunction. However, most of our understanding about TLRsignaling comes from the peripheral immune response, and it is becoming clear that the CNS immune response is unique. One controversial aspect of neuroimmune signaling is which CNS cell types are involved. While microglia are the CNScell-type derived from a myeloid lineage, studies suggest that other glial cell types and even neurons express TLRs, although this idea is controversial. Furthermore, recent work suggests a discrepancy between RNA and protein expression within the CNS. Methods: To elucidate the CNScell-typelocalization of TLRs and their downstream signaling molecules, we isolated microglia and astrocytes from the brain of adult mice treated with saline or the TLR4 ligand lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Glial mRNA and protein expression was compared to a cellular-admixture to determine cell-type enrichment. Results: Enrichment analysis revealed that most of the TLR pathway genes are localized in microglia and changed in microglia following immune challenge. However, expression of Tlr3 was enriched in astrocytes, where it increased in response to LPS. Furthermore, attempts to determine protein cell-typelocalization revealed that many antibodies are non-specific and that antibody differences are contributing to conflicting localization results. Conclusions: Together these results highlight the cell types that should be looked at when studying TLRsignaling gene expression and suggest that non-antibody approaches need to be used to accurately evaluate protein expression
Microglia are fundamentally important immune cells within the central nervous system (CNS) that respond to environmental challenges to maintain normal physiological processes. Alterations in steady-state cellular function and over-activation of microglia can facilitate the initiation and progression of neuropathological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Major Depressive Disorder. Alcoholconsumption disrupts signaling pathways including both innate and adaptive immune responses that are necessary for CNS homeostasis. Coordinate expression of these genes is not ascertained from an admixture of CNS cell-types, underscoring the importance of examining isolated cellular populations to reveal systematic gene expression changes arising from mature microglia. Unbiased RNA-Seq profiling was used to identify gene expression changes in isolated prefrontal cortical microglia in response to recurring bouts of voluntary alcohol drinking behavior. The voluntary ethanol paradigm utilizes long-term consumption ethanol that results in escalated alcohol intake and altered cortical plasticity that is seen in humans. Gene coexpression analysis identified a coordinately regulated group of genes, unique to microglia, that collectively are associated with alcoholconsumption. Genes within this group are involved in toll-like receptor signaling and transforming growth factor beta signaling. Network connectivity of this group identified Siglech as a putative hub gene and highlighted the potential importance of proteases in the microglial response to chronic ethanol. In conclusion, we identified a distinctive microglial gene expression signature for neuroimmune responses related to alcoholconsumption that provides valuable insight into microglia-specific changes underlying the development of substance abuse, and possibly other CNS disorders.
Binge drinking of alcohol during adolescence is a serious public health concern with long-term consequences, including decreased hippocampal and prefrontalcortex volume and deficits in memory. We used RNA sequencing to assess the effects of adolescent binge drinking on geneexpression in these regions. Male adolescentalcohol-preferring (P) rats were exposed to repeated binge drinking (three 1-h sessions/day during the dark/cycle, 5 days/week for 3 weeks starting at 28 days of age; ethanol intakes of 2.5-3 g/kg/session). Ethanol significantly altered the expression of 416 of 11,727 genes expressed in the ventralhippocampus. Genes and pathways involved in neurogenesis, long-term potentiation, and axonal guidance were decreased, which could relate to the impaired memory function found in subjects with adolescentalcoholbinge-like exposure. The decreased expression of myelin and cholesterol genes and apparent decrease in oligodendrocytes in Prats could result in decreased myelination. In the medialprefrontalcortex, 638 of 11,579 genes were altered; genes in cellular stress and inflammatory pathways were increased, as were genes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. Overall, the results of this study suggest that adolescentbinge-likealcoholdrinking may alter the development of the ventralhippocampus and medialprefrontalcortex and produce long-term consequences on learning and memory, and on control of impulsive behaviors.
Neuronal inhibition can occur via synaptic mechanisms or through tonic activation of extrasynaptic receptors. In spinal cord, glycine mediates synaptic inhibition through the activation of heteromeric glycine receptors (GlyRs) composed primarily of α1 and β subunits. Inhibitory GlyRs are also found throughout the brain, where GlyR α2 and α3 subunit expression exceeds that of α1, particularly in forebrain structures, and coassembly of these α subunits with the β subunit appears to occur to a lesser extent than in spinal cord. Here, we analyzed GlyR currents in several regions of the adolescent mouse forebrain (striatum, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis). Our results show ubiquitous expression of GlyRs that mediate large-amplitude currents in response to exogenously applied glycine in these forebrain structures. Additionally, tonic inward currents were also detected, but only in the striatum, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex (PFC). These toniccurrents were sensitive to both strychnine and picrotoxin, indicating that they are mediated by extrasynaptic homomeric GlyRs. Recordings from mice deficient in the GlyR α3 subunit (Glra3-/-) revealed a lack of tonic GlyR currents in the striatum and the PFC. In Glra2-/Y animals, GlyR toniccurrents were preserved; however, the amplitudes of current responses to exogenousglycine were significantly reduced. We conclude that functional α2 and α3 GlyRs are present in various regions of the forebrain and that α3 GlyRs specifically participate in tonic inhibition in the striatum and PFC. Our findings suggest roles for glycine in regulating neuronal excitability in the forebrain.
Despite acceptance that risk for alcohol-use disorder (AUD) has a large genetic component, the identification of genes underlying various components of risk for AUD has been hampered in humans, in part by the heterogeneity of expression of the phenotype. One aspect of AUD is physical dependence. Alcoholwithdrawal is a serious consequence of alcohol dependence with multiplesymptoms, many of which are seen in multiple species, and can be experienced over a wide-ranging time course. In the present three studies, we developed a battery of withdrawal tests in mice, examining behavioralsymptoms from multiple domains that could be measured over time. To permit eventual use of the battery in different strains of mice, we used male and female mice of a genetically heterogeneous stock developed from intercrossing eight inbred strains. Withdrawalsymptoms were assessed using commonly used tests after administration of ethanol in vapor for 72 continuous hours. We found significant effects of ethanol withdrawal versus air-breathing controls on nearly all symptoms, spanning 4 days following ethanol vapor inhalation. Withdrawal produced hypothermia, greater neurohyperexcitability (seizures and tremor), anxiety-like behaviors using an apparatus (such as reduced transitions between light and dark compartments), anhedonia (reduced sucrose preference), Straub tail, backward walking, and reductions in activity; however, there were no changes in thermal pain sensitivity, hyper-reactivity to handling, or anxiety-like emergence behaviors in other apparatus. Using these data, we constructed a refined battery of withdrawal tests. Individual differences in severity of withdrawal among different tests were weakly correlated at best. This battery should be useful for identifying genetic influences on particular withdrawal behaviors, which should reflect the influences of different constellations of genes.
Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) is a neuropeptide that plays a key role in behavioral and physiological responses to stress. A large body of animal literature implicates CRF acting at type 1 CRF receptors (CRFR1) in consumption by alcohol‐dependent subjects, stress‐induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking, and possibly binge alcohol consumption. These studies have encouraged recent pilot studies of CRFR1 antagonists in humans with alcohol use disorder (AUD). It was a great disappointment to many in the field that these studies failed to show an effect of these compounds on stress‐induced alcohol craving. Here, we examine these studies to explore potential limitations and discuss preclinical and human literature to ask whether CRFR1 is still a valid drug target to pursue for the treatment of AUD.
There is growing evidence that small-molecule inhibitors of epigenetic modulators, such as histone deacetylases (HDAC) and DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), can reduce voluntary ethanolconsumption in animal models, but molecular and cellular processes underlying this behavioral effect are poorly understood. We used C57BL/6J male mice to investigate the effects of two FDA-approved drugs, decitabine (a DNMT inhibitor) and SAHA (an HDAC inhibitor), on ethanolconsumption using two tests: binge-like drinking in the dark (DID) and chronic intermittent every other day (EOD) drinking. Decitabine but not SAHA reduced ethanolconsumption in both tests. We further investigated decitabine's effects on the brain's reward pathway by gene expression profiling in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), using RNA sequencing and electrophysiological recordings from VTA dopaminergic neurons. Decitabine-induced decreases in EOD drinking were associated with global changes in gene expression, implicating regulation of cerebral blood flow, extracellular matrix organization, and neuroimmune functions in decitabine actions. In addition, an in vivo administration of decitabine shortened ethanol-induced excitation of VTA dopaminergic neurons in vitro, suggesting that decitabine reduces ethanol drinking via changes in the reward pathway. Taken together, our data suggest a contribution of both neuronal and non-neuronal mechanisms in the VTA in the regulation of ethanolconsumption. Decitabine and other epigenetic compounds have been approved for cancer treatment, and understanding their mechanisms of actions in the brain may assist in repurposing these drugs and developing novel therapies for central disorders, including drug addiction.
BK channels are critical regulators of neuronal activity, controlling firing, neurotransmitter release, cerebellar function, and BK channel mutations have been linked to seizure disorders. Modulation of BK channel gating is well characterized, regulated by accessory subunit interactions, intracellular signaling pathways, and membrane potential. In contrast, the role of intracellular trafficking mechanisms in controlling BK channel function, especially in live cells, has been less studied. Fluorogen-activating peptides (FAPs) are well-suited for trafficking and physiological studies due to the binding of malachite green (MG)-based dyes with sub-nanomolar affinity to the FAP, resulting in bright, photostable, far-red fluorescence. Cell-excluded MG dyes enable the selective tagging of surface protein and tracking through endocytic pathways. We used CRISPR to insert the FAP at the extracellular N-terminus of BKα in the first exon of its native locus, enabling regulation by the native promoter elements and tag incorporation into multiple splice isoforms. Motor coordination was found to be normal; however, BK channel expression seems to be reduced in some locations. Alternate start site selection or post-translational proteolytic processing resulted in incomplete FAP tagging of the BKα proteins in brain tissues. In Purkinje cell somata, FAP revealed BK channel clustering previously only observed by electron microscopy. Measurement of these clusters in β4+/- and β4-/- mice showed that puncta number and cluster fluorescence intensity on the soma are reduced in β4-/- knockout animals. This novel mouse line provides a versatile fluorescent platform for studying endogenous BK channels in living and fixed tissues. Future studies could apply this line to ex vivo neuronal cultures to study live-cell channel trafficking.
Negative emotional status and adverse emotional events increase vulnerability to alcohol abuse. Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) emitted by rats are a well-established model of emotional status that can reflect positive or negative affective responses in real time. Most USV studies assess counts, yet each USV is a multidimensional data point characterized by several acousticcharacteristics that may provide insight into the neurocircuitry underlying emotional response.
USVs emitted from selectively bred alcohol-naïve and alcohol-experienced alcohol-preferring and nonpreferring rats (P and NPrats) were recorded during 4-hour sessions on alternating days over 4 weeks. Linear mixed modeling (LMM) and linear discriminant analysis (LDA) were applied to USVacousticcharacteristics (e.g., frequency, duration, power, and bandwidth) of negative affect (22 to 28 kilohertz [kHz])- and positive (50 to 55 kHz) affect-related USVs.
Hundred percent separation between alcohol-naïve P and NPrats was achieved through a linear combination (produced by LDA) of USVacousticcharacteristics of 22- to 28-kHz USVs, whereas poor separation (36.5%) was observed for 50- to 55-kHz USVs. 22- to 28-kHz LDA separation was high (87%) between alcohol-experienced P and NPrats, but was poor for 50- to 55-kHz USVs (57.3%). USV mean frequency and duration were the highest weighted characteristics in both the naïve and experienced 22- to 28-kHz LDA representations suggesting that alcohol experience does not alter the representations. LMM analyses of 22- to 28-kHz USVacousticcharacteristics matched the LDA results. Poor LDA separation was observed between alcohol-naïve and alcohol-experienced Prats for both 22- to 28-kHz and 50- to 55-kHz USVs.
Advanced statistical analysis of negativeaffect-associatedUSV data predicts future behaviors of excessivealcoholdrinking and alcoholavoidance in selectively bred rats. USVcharacteristics across rat lines reveal affect-related motivation to consume alcohol and may predict neural pathways mediating emotional response. Further characterization of these differences could delineate particular neurocircuitry and methods to ameliorate dysregulated emotional states often observed in human alcohol abusers.
Alcohol acts on numerous cellular and molecular targets to regulate neuronal communication within the brain. Chronic alcohol exposure and acute withdrawal generate prominent neuroadaptations at synapses, including compensatory effects on the expression, localization and function of synaptic proteins, channels and receptors. The present article reviews the literature describing the synaptic effects of chronic alcohol exposure and their relevance for synaptic transmission in the central nervous system. This review is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to highlight the effects that have been observed most consistently and that are thought to contribute to the development of alcohol dependence and the negative aspects of withdrawal. Specifically, we will focus on the major excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain, glutamate and GABA, respectively, and how their neuroadaptations after chronic alcohol exposure contributes to alcohol reinforcement, dependence and withdrawal. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "Alcoholism".
Drug addiction is a complex disorder that is characterized by compulsivity to seek and take the drug, loss of control in limiting intake of the drug, and emergence of a withdrawal syndrome in the absence of the drug. The transition from casual drug use to dependence is mediated by changes in reward and brain stress functions and has been linked to a shift from positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement. The recruitment of brain stress systems mediates the negative emotional state produced by dependence that drives drug seeking through negative reinforcement mechanisms, defined as the "dark side" of addiction. In this chapter we focus on behavioral and cellular neuropharmacological studies that have implicated brain stress systems (i.e., corticotropin-releasing factor [CRF]) in the transition to addiction and the predominant brain regions involved. We also discuss the implication of CRF recruitment in compulsive eating disorders.
The identification of new and more effective treatments for alcohol abuse remains a priority. Alcohol intake activates glucocorticoids, which have a key role in alcohol's reinforcing properties. Glucocorticoid effects are modulated in part by the activity of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11β-HSD) acting as pre-receptors. Here, we tested the effects on alcohol intake of the 11β-HSD inhibitor carbenoxolone (CBX, 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid 3β-O-hemisuccinate), which has been extensively used in the clinic for the treatment of gastritis and peptic ulcer and is active on both 11β-HSD1 and 11β-HSD2 isoforms. We observed that CBX reduces both baseline and excessive drinking in rats and mice. The CBX diastereomer 18α-glycyrrhetinic acid 3β-O-hemisuccinate (αCBX), which we found to be selective for 11β-HSD2, was also effective in reducing alcohol drinking in mice. Thus, 11β-HSD inhibitors may be a promising new class of candidate alcohol abuse medications, and existing 11β-HSD inhibitor drugs may be potentially re-purposed for alcohol abuse treatment.