The high alcohol-preferring (HAP) and low alcohol-preferring (LAP) mice were selectively bred for differences in alcohol preference and consumption. Recently, a large-effect QTL was identified on chromosome 9. The peak for this QTL is near the Drd2 (dopamine receptor 2) locus. The present study examined Drd2 mRNA expression differences between the HAP1 and LAP1 mice in brain regions important in the dopaminergic-reward pathway, including the nucleus accumbens, hippocampus, amygdala, and septum. Results show that alcohol-naïve HAP1 mice exhibited lower levels of Drd2 mRNA expression in the nucleus accumbens and the hippocampus compared to LAP1 mice. No differences were found in the amygdala or septum. To determine if a sequence difference might underlie the expression difference, the Drd2 cDNA was sequenced in each line and one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) was identified in the 3′ UTR. Both HAP and LAP 3′ UTR were cloned in the luc-pGL3-promoter-luc vector. The polymorphism in the Drd2 3′ UTR was assessed to determine its functional significance in modulating expression. In vitro expression analysis using neuroblastoma SK-N-SH cells resulted in a significant decrease in expression of the HAP 3′ UTR luc construct compared with the LAP 3′ UTR construct. This decreased expression is consistent with lower levels of Drd2 expression in the nucleus accumbens and the hippocampus as evidenced by qRT-PCR. These results suggest that the SNP may play a role in the differential expression of Drd2 between the HAP and LAP mice and that the polymorphism in Drd2 may contribute to alcohol preference.
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