Gene expression changes in the nucleus accumbens of alcohol-preferring rats following chronic ethanol consumption

Richard L. Bell, Mark W. Kimpel, Jeanette N. McClintick, Wendy N. Strother, Lucinda G. Carr, Tiebing Liang, Zachary A. Rodd, R. Dayne Mayfield, Howard J. Edenberg, William J. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the effects of binge-like alcohol drinking on gene expression changes in the nucleus accumbens (ACB) of alcohol-preferring (P) rats. Adult male P rats were given ethanol under multiple scheduled access (MSA; three 1-h dark cycle sessions/day) conditions for 8 weeks. For comparison purposes, a second ethanol drinking group was given continuous/daily alcohol access (CA; 24 h/day). A third group was ethanol-naïve (W group). Average ethanol intakes for the CA and MSA groups were approximately 9.5 and 6.5 g/kg/day, respectively. Fifteen hours after the last drinking episode, rats were euthanized, the brains extracted, and the ACB dissected. RNA was extracted and purified for microarray analysis. The only significant differences were between the CA and W groups (p < 0.01; Storey false discovery rate = 0.15); there were 374 differences in named genes between these 2 groups. There were 20 significant Gene Ontology (GO) categories, which included negative regulation of protein kinase activity, anti-apoptosis, and regulation of G-protein coupled receptor signaling. Ingenuity® analysis indicated a network of transcription factors, involving oncogenes (Fos, Jun, Junb had higher expression in the ACB of the CA group), suggesting increased neuronal activity. There were 43 genes located within rat QTLs for alcohol consumption and preference; 4 of these genes (Tgfa, Hspa5, Mtus1 and Creb3l2) are involved in anti-apoptosis and increased transcription, suggesting that they may be contributing to cellular protection and maintaining high alcohol intakes. Overall, these findings suggest that chronic CA drinking results in genomic changes that can be observed during the early acute phase of ethanol withdrawal. Conversely, chronic MSA drinking, with its associated protracted withdrawal periods, results in genomic changes that may be masked by tight regulation of these genes following repeated experiences of ethanol withdrawal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-147
Number of pages17
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


  • Alcohol drinking
  • Alcohol-preferring rats
  • Ethanol responsive genes
  • Ethanol withdrawal
  • Gene expression
  • Microarrays
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Self-administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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