Publications

2017
Truitt JM, Blednov YA, Benavidez JM, Black M, Ponomareva O, Law J, Merriman M, Horani S, Jameson K, Lasek AW, et al. Inhibition of IKKβ reduces ethanol consumption in C57BL/6J mice. eNeuro. 2017;3(5) :0256-16.Abstract
Proinflammatory pathways in neuronal and non-neuronal cells are implicated in the acute and chronic effects of alcohol exposure in animal models and humans. The nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) family of DNA transcription factors plays important roles in inflammatory diseases. The kinase IKKβ mediates the phosphorylation and subsequent proteasomal degradation of cytosolic protein inhibitors of NF-κB, leading to activation of NF-κB. The role of IKKβ as a potential regulator of excessive alcohol drinking had not previously been investigated. Based on previous findings that the overactivation of innate immune/inflammatory signaling promotes ethanol consumption, we hypothesized that inhibiting IKKβ would limit/decrease drinking by preventing the activation of NF-κB. We studied the systemic effects of two pharmacological inhibitors of IKKβ, TPCA-1 and sulfasalazine, on ethanol intake using continuous- and limited-access, two-bottle choice drinking tests in C57BL/6J mice. In both tests, TPCA-1 and sulfasalazine reduced ethanol intake and preference without changing total fluid intake or sweet taste preference. A virus expressing Cre recombinase was injected into the nucleus accumbens and central amygdala to selectively knock down IKKβ in mice genetically engineered with a conditional Ikkb deletion (IkkbF/F ). Although IKKβ was inhibited to some extent in astrocytes and microglia, neurons were a primary cellular target. Deletion of IKKβ in either brain region reduced ethanol intake and preference in the continuous access two-bottle choice test without altering the preference for sucrose. Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of IKKβ decreased voluntary ethanol consumption, providing initial support for IKKβ as a potential therapeutic target for alcohol abuse.
Tulisiak CT, Harris RA, Ponomarev I. DNA modifications in models of alcohol use disorders. Alcohol. 2017;May (60) :19-30.Abstract
Chronic alcohol use and abuse result in widespread changes to gene expression, some of which contribute to the development of alcohol-use disorders (AUD). Gene expression is controlled, in part, by a group of regulatory systems often referred to as epigenetic factors, which includes, among other mechanisms, chemical marks made on the histone proteins around which genomic DNA is wound to form chromatin, and on nucleotides of the DNA itself. In particular, alcohol has been shown to perturb the epigenetic machinery, leading to changes in gene expression and cellular functions characteristic of AUD and, ultimately, to altered behavior. DNA modifications in particular are seeing increasing research in the context of alcohol use and abuse. To date, studies of DNA modifications in AUD have primarily looked at global methylation profiles in human brain and blood, gene-specific methylation profiles in animal models, methylation changes associated with prenatal ethanol exposure, and the potential therapeutic abilities of DNA methyltransferase inhibitors. Future studies may be aimed at identifying changes to more recently discovered DNA modifications, utilizing new methods to discriminate methylation profiles between cell types, thus clarifying how alcohol influences the methylomes of cell-type populations and how this may affect downstream processes. These studies and more in-depth probing of DNA methylation will be key to determining whether DNA-level epigenetic regulation plays a causative role in AUD and can thus be targeted for treatment of the disorder.
Tulisiak CT, Harris RA, Ponomarev I. DNA modifications in models of alcohol use disorders. Alcohol. 2017;(60) :19-30.Abstract
Chronic alcohol use and abuse result in widespread changes to gene expression, some of which contribute to the development of alcohol-use disorders (AUD). Gene expression is controlled, in part, by a group of regulatory systems often referred to as epigenetic factors, which includes, among other mechanisms, chemical marks made on the histone proteins around which genomic DNA is wound to form chromatin, and on nucleotides of the DNA itself. In particular, alcohol has been shown to perturb the epigenetic machinery, leading to changes in gene expression and cellular functions characteristic of AUD and, ultimately, to altered behavior. DNA modifications in particular are seeing increasing research in the context of alcohol use and abuse. To date, studies of DNA modifications in AUD have primarily looked at global methylation profiles in human brain and blood, gene-specific methylation profiles in animal models, methylation changes associated with prenatal ethanol exposure, and the potential therapeutic abilities of DNA methyltransferase inhibitors. Future studies may be aimed at identifying changes to more recently discovered DNA modifications, utilizing new methods to discriminate methylation profiles between cell types, thus clarifying how alcohol influences the methylomes of cell-type populations and how this may affect downstream processes. These studies and more in-depth probing of DNA methylation will be key to determining whether DNA-level epigenetic regulation plays a causative role in AUD and can thus be targeted for treatment of the disorder.
Vandegrift BJ, You C, Satta R, Brodie MS, Lasek AW. Estradiol increases the sensitivity of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons to dopamine and ethanol. PLoS One. 2017.Abstract
Gender differences in psychiatric disorders such as addiction may be modulated by the steroid hormone estrogen. For instance, 17β-estradiol (E2), the predominant form of circulating estrogen in pre-menopausal females, increases ethanol consumption, suggesting that E2 may affect the rewarding properties of ethanol and thus the development of alcohol use disorder in females. The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is critically involved in the rewarding and reinforcing effects of ethanol. In order to determine the role of E2 in VTA physiology, gonadally intact female mice were sacrificed during diestrus II (high E2) or estrus (low E2) for electrophysiology recordings. We measured the excitation by ethanol and inhibition by dopamine (DA) of VTA DA neurons and found that both excitation by ethanol and inhibition by dopamine were greater in diestrus II compared with estrus. Treatment of VTA slices from mice in diestrus II with an estrogen receptor antagonist (ICI 182,780) reduced ethanol-stimulated neuronal firing, but had no effect on ethanol-stimulated firing of neurons in slices from mice in estrus. Surprisingly, ICI 182,780 did not affect the inhibition by DA, indicating different mechanisms of action of estrogen receptors in altering ethanol and DA responses. We also examined the responses of VTA DA neurons to ethanol and DA in ovariectomized mice treated with E2 and found that E2 treatment enhanced the responses to ethanol and DA in a manner similar to what we observed in mice in diestrus II. Our data indicate that E2 modulates VTA neuron physiology, which may contribute to both the enhanced reinforcing and rewarding effects of alcohol and the development of other psychiatric disorders in females that involve alterations in DA neurotransmission.
Varodayan FP, Bajo M, Soni N, Luu G, Madamba SG, Schweitzer P, Roberto M. Chronic alcohol exposure disrupts CB1 regulation of GABAergic transmission in the rat basolateral amygdala. Addiction Biology. 2017;22 :766-778.Abstract
The basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) is critical to the pathophysiology of anxiety-driven alcohol drinking and relapse. The endogenous cannabinoid/type 1 cannabinoid receptor (eCB/CB1 ) system curbs BLA-driven anxiety and stress responses via a retrograde negative feedback system that inhibits neurotransmitter release, and BLA CB1 activation reduces GABA release and drives anxiogenesis. Additionally, decreased amygdala CB1 is observed in abstinent alcoholic patients and ethanol withdrawn rats. Here, we investigated the potential disruption of eCB/CB1 signaling on GABAergic transmission in BLA pyramidal neurons of rats exposed to 2-3 weeks intermittent ethanol. In the naïve rat BLA, the CB1 agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) decreased GABA release, and this effect was prevented by the CB1 antagonist AM251. AM251 alone increased GABA release via a mechanism requiring postsynaptic calcium-dependent activity. This retrograde tonic eCB/CB1 signaling was diminished in chronic ethanol exposed rats, suggesting a functional impairment of the eCB/CB1 system. In contrast, acute ethanol increased GABAergic transmission similarly in naïve and chronic ethanol exposed rats, via both presynaptic and postsynaptic mechanisms. Notably, CB1 activation impaired ethanol's facilitation of GABAergic transmission across both groups, but the AM251-induced and ethanol-induced facilitation of GABA release was additive, suggesting independent presynaptic sites of action. Collectively, the present findings highlight a critical CB1 influence on BLA GABAergic transmission that is dysregulated by chronic ethanol exposure and, thus, may contribute to the alcohol-dependent state
Varodayan FP, Correia D, Kirson D, Khom S, Oleata CS, Luu G, Schweitzer P, Roberto M. CRF modulates glutamate transmission in the central amygdala of naïve and ethanol-dependent rats. Neuropharmacology. 2017;125 :418-428.Abstract
Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) signaling in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) is hypothesized to drive the development of alcohol dependence, as it regulates ethanol intake and several anxiogenic behaviors linked to withdrawal. Excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission contributes to alcohol reinforcement, tolerance and dependence. Therefore, in this study we used in vitro slice electrophysiology to investigate the effects of CRF and its receptor subtype (CRF1 and CRF2) antagonists on both evoked and spontaneous action potential-independent glutamatergic transmission in the CeA of naive and ethanol-dependent Sprague-Dawley rats. We found that CRF (25-200 nM) concentration-dependently diminished evoked compound excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs), but increased miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (mEPSC) frequencies similarly in CeA neurons of both naïve and ethanol-dependent rats, indicating reduced evoked glutamatergic responses and enhanced vesicular glutamate release, respectively. This CRF-induced vesicular glutamate release was prevented by the CRF1/2 antagonist (Astressin B) and the CRF1 antagonist (R121919), but not by the CRF2 antagonist (Astressin 2B). Similarly, CRF's effects on evoked glutamatergic responses were completely blocked by CRF1 antagonism, but only slightly decreased in the presence of the CRF2 antagonist. Moreover, CRF1 antagonism reveals a tonic facilitation of vesicular glutamate, whereas the CRF2 antagonism revealed a tonic inhibition of vesicular glutamate release. Collectively our data show that CRF primarily acts at presynaptic CRF1 to produce opposite effects on CeA evoked and spontaneous glutamate release and that the CRF system modulates CeA glutamatergic synapses throughout the development of alcohol dependence.
Varodayan FP, de Guglielmo G, Logrip ML, George O, Roberto M. Alcohol dependence disrupts amygdalar L-type voltage-gated calcium channel mechanisms. Journal of Neuroscience. 2017;37 :4593-4603.Abstract
L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LTCCs) are implicated in several psychiatric disorders that are comorbid with alcoholism and involve amygdala dysfunction. Within the amygdala, the central nucleus (CeA) is critical in acute alcohol's reinforcing actions, and its dysregulation in human alcoholics drives their negative emotional state and motivation to drink. Here we investigated the specific role of CeA LTCCs in the effects of acute alcohol at the molecular, cellular physiology, and behavioral levels, and their potential neuroadaptation in alcohol-dependent rats. Alcohol increases CeA activity (neuronal firing rates and GABA release) in naive rats by engaging LTCCs, and intra-CeA LTCC blockade reduces alcohol intake in nondependent rats. Alcohol dependence reduces CeA LTCC membrane abundance and disrupts this LTCC-based mechanism; instead, corticotropin-releasing factor type 1 receptors (CRF1s) mediate alcohol's effects on CeA activity and drive the escalated alcohol intake of alcohol-dependent rats. Collectively, our data indicate that alcohol dependence functionally alters the molecular mechanisms underlying the CeA's response to alcohol (from LTCC- to CRF1-driven). This mechanistic switch contributes to and reflects the prominent role of the CeA in the negative emotional state that drives excessive drinking.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The central amygdala (CeA) plays a critical role in the development of alcohol dependence. As a result, much preclinical alcohol research aims to identify relevant CeA neuroadaptions that promote the transition to dependence. Here we report that acute alcohol increases CeA neuronal activity in naive rats by engaging L-type calcium channels (LTCCs) and that intra-CeA LTCC blockade reduces alcohol intake in nondependent rats. Alcohol dependence disrupts this LTCC-based mechanism; instead, corticotropin-releasing factor type 1 receptors (CRF1s) mediate alcohol's effects on CeA activity and drive the escalated alcohol intake of alcohol-dependent rats. This switch reflects the important role of the CeA in the pathophysiology of alcohol dependence and represents a new potential avenue for therapeutic intervention during the transition period.
Varodayan FP, Logrip ML, Roberto M. P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channels mediate the ethanol and CRF sensitivity of central amygdala GABAergic synapses. Neuropharmacology. 2017;125 :197-206.Abstract
The central amygdala (CeA) GABAergic system is hypothesized to drive the development of alcohol dependence, due to its pivotal roles in the reinforcing actions of alcohol and the expression of negative emotion, anxiety and stress. Recent work has also identified an important role for the CeA corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system in the interaction between anxiety/stress and alcohol dependence. We have previously shown that acute alcohol and CRF each increase action potential-independent GABA release in the CeA via their actions at presynaptic CRF type 1 receptors (CRF1s); however, the shared mechanism employed by these two compounds requires further investigation. Here we report that acute alcohol interacts with the CRF/CRF1 system, such that CRF and alcohol act via presynaptic CRF1s and P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channels to promote vesicular GABA release and that both compounds occlude the effects of each other at these synapses. Chronic alcohol exposure does not alter P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channel membrane abundance or this CRF1/P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channel mechanism of acute alcohol-induced GABA release, indicating that alcohol engages this molecular mechanism at CeA GABAergic synapses throughout the transition to dependence. Thus, P/Q-type voltage-gated calcium channels, like CRF1s, are key regulators of the effects of alcohol on GABAergic signaling in the CeA.
Warden AS, Mayfield RD. Gene expression profiling in the human alcoholic brain. Neuropharmacology. 2017;122 :161-174.Abstract
Long-term alcohol use causes widespread changes in gene expression in the human brain. Aberrant gene expression changes likely contribute to the progression from occasional alcohol use to alcohol use disorder (including alcohol dependence). Transcriptome studies have identified individual gene candidates that are linked to alcohol-dependence phenotypes. The use of bioinformatics techniques to examine expression datasets has provided novel systems-level approaches to transcriptome profiling in human postmortem brain. These analytical advances, along with recent developments in next-generation sequencing technology, have been instrumental in detecting both known and novel coding and non-coding RNAs, alternative splicing events, and cell-type specific changes that may contribute to alcohol-related pathologies. This review offers an integrated perspective on alcohol-responsive transcriptional changes in the human brain underlying the regulatory gene networks that contribute to alcohol dependence. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "Alcoholism".
Zahr NM, Pfefferbaum A, EV S. Perspectives on fronto-fugal circuitry from human imaging of alcohol use disorders. Neuropharmacology. 2017;122 :189-200.Abstract
Descriptions of the cognitive functions affected by alcohol use disorders (AUD) often highlight dysfunction of executive processes such attention, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Such complex cognitive functions have historically been ascribed to the prefrontal cortex. AUD, however, disrupts extensive areas of the brain. Structural and functional MRI studies suggest a central role for degradation of circuitry originating in the prefrontal cortex including nodes in widespread brain regions. This review features fronto-fugal circuits affected by AUD including frontocerebellar, frontolimbic, and frontostriatal networks and their relations to the salient, enduring, and debilitating cognitive and motor deficits reported in AUD. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "Alcoholism".
Zahr NM, Pfefferbaum A, Sullivan EV. Alcohol's Effects on the Brain: Neuroimaging Results in Humans and Animal Models. Alchol Research. 2017;38 :183-206.Abstract
Brain imaging technology has allowed researchers to conduct rigorous studies of the dynamic course of alcoholism through periods of drinking, sobriety, and relapse and to gain insights into the effects of chronic alcoholism on the human brain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have distinguished alcohol-related brain effects that are permanent from those that are reversible with abstinence. In support of postmortem neuropathological studies showing degeneration of white matter, MRI studies have shown a specific vulnerability of white matter to chronic alcohol exposure. Such studies have demonstrated white-matter volume deficits as well as damage to selective gray-matter structures. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), by permitting microstructural characterization of white matter, has extended MRI findings in alcoholics. MR spectroscopy (MRS) allows quantification of several metabolites that shed light on brain biochemical alterations caused by alcoholism. This article focuses on MRI, DTI, and MRS findings in neurological disorders that commonly co-occur with alcoholism, including Wernicke's encephalopathy, Korsakoff's syndrome, and hepatic encephalopathy. Also reviewed are neuroimaging findings in animal models of alcoholism and related neurological disorders. This report also suggests that the dynamic course of alcoholism presents a unique opportunity to examine brain structural and functional repair and recovery.
Bray JG, Roberts AJ, Gruol DL. Transgenic mice with increased astrocyte expression of CCL2 show altered behavioral effects of alcohol. Neuroscience. Neuroscience. 2017;(354) :88-100.Abstract

Emerging research provides strong evidence that activation of CNS glial cells occurs in neurological diseases and brain injury and results in elevated production of neuroimmune factors. These factors can contribute to pathophysiological processes that lead to altered CNS function. Recently, studies have also shown that both acute and chronic alcohol consumption can produce activation of CNS glial cells and the production of neuroimmune factors, particularly the chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2). The consequences of alcohol-induced increases in CCL2 levels in the CNS have yet to be fully elucidated. Our studies focus on the hypothesis that increased levels of CCL2 in the CNS produce neuroadaptive changes that modify the actions of alcohol on the CNS. We utilized behavioral testing in transgenic mice that express elevated levels of CCL2 to test this hypothesis. The increased level of CCL2 in the transgenic mice involves increased astrocyte expression. Transgenic mice and their non-transgenic littermate controls were subjected to one of two alcohol exposure paradigms, a two-bottle choice alcohol drinking procedure that does not produce alcohol dependence or a chronic intermittent alcohol procedure that produces alcohol dependence. Several behavioral tests were carried out including the Barnes maze, Y-maze, cued and contextual conditioned fear test, light-dark transfer, and forced swim test. Comparisons between alcohol naïve, non-dependent, and alcohol-dependent CCL2 transgenic and non-transgenic mice show that elevated levels of CCL2 in the CNS interact with alcohol in tests for alcohol drinking, spatial learning, and associative learning.

Giardino WJ, Rodriguez ED, Smith ML, Ford MM, Galili D, Mitchell SH, Chen A, Ryabinin AE. Control of chronic excessive alcohol drinking by genetic manipulation of the Edinger-Westphal nucleus urocortin-1 neuropeptide system. Translational Psychiatry. 2017;7 (1) :e1021.Abstract
Midbrain neurons of the centrally projecting Edinger-Westphal nucleus (EWcp) are activated by alcohol, and enriched with stress-responsive neuropeptide modulators (including the paralog of corticotropin-releasing factor, urocortin-1). Evidence suggests that EWcp neurons promote behavioral processes for alcohol-seeking and consumption, but a definitive role for these cells remains elusive. Here we combined targeted viral manipulations and gene array profiling of EWcp neurons with mass behavioral phenotyping in C57BL/6 J mice to directly define the links between EWcp-specific urocortin-1 expression and voluntary binge alcohol intake, demonstrating a specific importance for EWcp urocortin-1 activity in escalation of alcohol intake.
Harris RA, Bajo M, Bell RL, Blednov YA, Varodayan FP, Truitt JM, de Guglielmo G, Lasek AW, Logrip ML, Vendruscolo LF, et al. Genetic and Pharmacologic Manipulation of TLR4 Has Minimal Impact on Ethanol Consumption in Rodents. The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2017;37 (5) :1139–1155.Abstract
Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a critical component of innate immune signaling and has been implicated in alcohol responses in preclinical and clinical models. Members of the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA-Neuroimmune) consortium tested the hypothesis that TLR4 mediates excessive ethanol drinking using the following models: (1) Tlr4 knock-out (KO) rats, (2) selective knockdown of Tlr4 mRNA in mouse nucleus accumbens (NAc), and (3) injection of the TLR4 antagonist (+)-naloxone in mice. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) decreased food/water intake and body weight in ethanol-naive and ethanol-trained wild-type (WT), but not Tlr4 KO rats. There were no consistent genotypic differences in two-bottle choice chronic ethanol intake or operant self-administration in rats before or after dependence. In mice, (+)-naloxone did not decrease drinking-in-the-dark and only modestly inhibited dependence-driven consumption at the highest dose. Tlr4 knockdown in mouse NAc did not decrease drinking in the two-bottle choice continuous or intermittent access tests. However, the latency to ethanol-induced loss of righting reflex increased and the duration decreased in KO versus WT rats. In rat central amygdala neurons, deletion of Tlr4 altered GABAA receptor function, but not GABA release. Although there were no genotype differences in acute ethanol effects before or after chronic intermittent ethanol exposure, genotype differences were observed after LPS exposure. Using different species and sexes, different methods to inhibit TLR4 signaling, and different ethanol consumption tests, our comprehensive studies indicate that TLR4 may play a role in ethanol-induced sedation and GABAA receptor function, but does not regulate excessive drinking directly and would not be an effective therapeutic target. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a key mediator of innate immune signaling and has been implicated in alcohol responses in animal models and human alcoholics. Members of the Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA-Neuroimmune) consortium participated in the first comprehensive study across multiple laboratories to test the hypothesis that TLR4 regulates excessive alcohol consumption in different species and different models of chronic, dependence-driven, and binge-like drinking. Although TLR4 was not a critical determinant of excessive drinking, it was important in the acute sedative effects of alcohol. Current research efforts are directed at determining which neuroimmune pathways mediate excessive alcohol drinking and these findings will help to prioritize relevant pathways and potential therapeutic targets.
Haile CN, Kosten TA. The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha agonist fenofibrate attenuates alcohol self-administration in rats. Neuropharmacology. 2017;116 :364–370.Abstract
Fibrates are a class of medications used to treat hypercholesterolemia and dyslipidemia that target nuclear peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). Studies have shown the PPARα agonist fenofibrate decreases voluntary EtOH consumption however its impact on the reinforcing and motivational effects of EtOH is unknown. We evaluated the ability of fenofibrate (25, 50 and 100 mg/kg), to alter EtOH (10%, w/v) and sucrose (2%, w/v) operant self-administration in rats under a FR2 schedule of reinforcement over four days and under a progressive ratio (PR) schedule on day five of treatment. Results showed fenofibrate dose-dependently decreased EtOH self-administration under both schedules of reinforcement with the greatest effects seen after four to five days of treatment. Fenofibrate decreased responding for sucrose only under the PR schedule of reinforcement and this effect was not dose-dependent. These findings provide further evidence for fenofibrate as a potential treatment for alcohol use disorder in humans.
Logrip ML, Oleata C, Roberto M. Sex differences in responses of the basolateral-central amygdala circuit to alcohol, corticosterone and their interaction. Neuropharmacology. 2017;114 :123–134.Abstract
Alcohol use disorders are chronically relapsing conditions that pose significant health challenges for our society. Stress is a prevalent trigger of relapse, particularly for women, yet the mechanisms by which alcohol and stress interact, and how this differs between males and females, remain poorly understood. The glutamatergic circuit connecting the basolateral (BLA) and central (CeA) nuclei of the amygdala is a likely locus for such adaptations, yet the impact of alcohol, corticosterone and their interaction on this circuit has been understudied. In particular, no studies have addressed sex differences in these effects or potential differential responses between the lateral and medial subdivisions of the central nucleus. Thus, we assessed the effects of alcohol and corticosterone treatments on BLA-evoked compound glutamatergic responses in medial and lateral CeA neurons from male and female rats. We observed minimal differences between medial and lateral CeA responses to alcohol and corticosterone in male rats, which were primarily sensitive to alcohol-induced inhibition of glutamatergic postsynaptic potentials. Unlike male neurons, cells from female rats displayed reduced sensitivity to alcohol's inhibitory effects. In addition, female neurons diverged in their sensitivity to corticosterone, with lateral CeA neuronal responses significantly blunted following corticosterone treatment and medial CeA neurons largely unchanged by corticosterone or subsequent co-application of alcohol. Together these data highlight striking differences in how male and female amygdala respond to alcohol and the stress hormone corticosterone, factors which may impact differential susceptibility of the sexes to alcohol- and stress-related disorders.
Boulos L-J, Darcq E, Kieffer BL. Translating the Habenula-From Rodents to Humans. Biological Psychiatry. 2017;81 (4) :296–305.Abstract
The habenula (Hb) is a central structure connecting forebrain to midbrain regions. This microstructure regulates monoaminergic systems, notably dopamine and serotonin, and integrates cognitive with emotional and sensory processing. Early preclinical data have described Hb as a brain nucleus activated in anticipation of aversive outcomes. Evidence has now accumulated to show that the Hb encodes both rewarding and aversive aspects of external stimuli, thus driving motivated behaviors and decision making. Human Hb research is still nascent but develops rapidly, alongside with the growth of neuroimaging and deep brain stimulation techniques. Not surprisingly, Hb dysfunction has been associated with psychiatric disorders, and studies in patients have established evidence for Hb involvement in major depression, addiction, and schizophrenia, as well as in pain and analgesia. Here, we summarize current knowledge from animal research and overview the existing human literature on anatomy and function of the Hb. We also discuss challenges and future directions in targeting this small brain structure in both rodents and humans. By combining animal data and human experimental studies, this review addresses the translational potential of preclinical Hb research.
Renteria R, Maier EY, Buske TR, Morrisett RA. Selective alterations of NMDAR function and plasticity in D1 and D2 medium spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens shell following chronic intermittent ethanol exposure. Neuropharmacology. 2017;112 (Pt A) :164–171.Abstract
A major mouse model widely adopted in recent years to induce pronounced ethanol intake is the ethanol vapor model known as "CIE" or "Chronic Intermittent Ethanol." One critical question concerning this model is whether the rapid induction of high blood ethanol levels for such short time periods is sufficient to induce alterations in N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) function which may contribute to excessive ethanol intake. In this study, we determined whether such short term intermittent ethanol exposure modulates NMDAR function as well as other prominent electrophysiological properties and the expression of plasticity in both D1 (D1+) and D2 (D1-) dopamine receptor expressing medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell. To distinguish between the two subtypes of MSNs in the NAc we treated Drd1a-TdTomato transgenic mice with CIE vapor and electrophysiological recordings were conducted 24 h after the last vapor exposure. To investigate CIE induced alterations in plasticity, long-term depression (LTD) was induced by pairing low frequency stimulation (LFS) with post synaptic depolarization. In ethanol naïve mice, LFS induced synaptic depression (LTD) was apparent exclusively in D1+ MSNs. Whereas in slices prepared from CIE treated mice, LFS induced synaptic potentiation (LTP) in D1+ MSNs. Furthermore, following CIE exposure, LFS now produced LTD in D1- MSNs. We found that CIE exposure induced an increase in excitability in D1+ MSNs with no change in D1- MSNs. After CIE, we found a significant increase in spontaneous EPSCs (sEPSCs) frequency in D1+ but not D1- MSNs suggesting alterations in baseline α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor (AMPAR) mediated signaling. CIE induced changes in NMDAR function were measured using the NMDA/AMPA ratio and input-output curves of isolated NMDAR currents. We observed a significant increase in NMDAR function in D1+ MSNs and a decrease in D1- MSNs after ethanol vapor exposure. The reversal of NMDAR function may account for the CIE induced alterations in the expression of plasticity. The cell type specific alterations in excitatory signaling in the NAc shell may constitute an important neuroadaptation necessary for the expression of increased ethanol consumption induced by intermittent ethanol vapor exposure. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled 'Ionotropic glutamate receptors'.
Mayfield J, Harris RA. The Neuroimmune Basis of Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Neuropsychopharmacology: Official Publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017;42 (1) :376.
2016
Ma HY, Xu J, Liu X, Zhu Y, Gao B, Karin M, Tsukamoto H, Jeste DV, Grant I, Roberts AJ, et al. The role of IL-17 signaling in regulation of the liver-brain axis and intestinal permeability in alcoholic liver disease. Current Pathobiology Reports [Internet]. 2016;4 :27-35. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) progresses from a normal liver, to steatosis, steatohepatitis, fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Despite intensive studies, the pathogenesis of ALD is poorly understood, in part due to a lack of suitable animal models which mimic the stages of ALD progression. Furthermore, the role of IL-17 in ALD has not been evaluated. We and others have recently demonstrated that IL-17 signaling plays a critical role in development of liver fibrosis and cancer. Here we summarize the most recent evidence supporting the roleof IL-17 in ALD. As a result of a collaborative effort of Drs. Karin, Gao, Tsukamoto and Kisseleva, we developed several improved models of ALD in mice: 1) chronic-plus-binge model that mimics early stages of steatohepatitis, 2) intragastric ethanol feeding model that mimics alcoholic steatohepatitis and fibrosis, and 3) diethylnitrosamine (DEN)+alcohol model that mimics alcoholic liver cancer. These models might provide new insights into the mechanism of IL-17 signaling in ALD and help identify novel therapeutic targets.

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