Involvement of dopamine D2 autoreceptors in the ventral tegmental area on alcohol and saccharin intake of the alcohol-preferring P rat

K. L. Nowak, W. J. McBride, L. Lumeng, T. K. Li, James M. Murphy

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Background: The ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) system is considered to be involved in mediating the actions of ethanol (EtOH). The objective of the present study was to examine the role of VTA DAD2 receptors in regulating EtOH intake of alcohol-preferring P rats. Methods: EtOH (10% v/v) and saccharin (SACC, 0.0125% g/v) intake during 2 hr of limited access was assessed after microinjections of the D2 agonist quinpirole and the D2 antagonist sulpiride into the anterior VTA (AVTA) of female P rats. Both EtOH-SACC alternate-day-access conditions and dally availability of EtOH and SACC solutions to separate groups of subjects were used. A second D2 agonist, quinelorane, and coadministration of 2.0 μg sulpiride with 2.0 μg quinpirole were tested in animals given limited access to EtOH. Finally, the effects of quinpirole injected 2 mm dorsal to the VTA and within the posterior VTA (PVTA) were assessed under EtOH-SACC alternate-day-access conditions. Results: Microinjections of 2.0-6.0 μg quinpirole into the AVTA dose dependently decreased EtOH intake 40-80% during the first 30 min of the limited access sessions but did not alter SACC intake. Injections of 2.0-4.0 μg quinelorane into the AVTA also reduced EtOH intake in the first 30 min. Administration of 0.5-2.0 μg sulpiride into the AVTA had no effect on either EtOH or SACC intakes but did attenuate the effects of quinpirole on reducing EtOH intake. Injections of 2.0-4.0 quinpirole 2 mm dorsal to the VTA did not alter EtOH or SACC intakes. Posterior VTA injections of quinpirole decreased EtOH and SACC intakes approximately 25-30% and 60-70%, respectively, in the first 30 min. None of the treatments altered intakes during the 30-120 min period. Conclusions: The data suggest that DA neuronal activity within the AVTA may be important for maintaining EtOH drinking in P rats, whereas DA neuronal activity within the PVTA may be involved in regulating general drinking and/or motivational behaviors. Overall, the results confirm the involvement of mesolimbic DA in EtOH self-administration and suggest that there is functional heterogeneity within the VTA regulating drinking behavior of the P rat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)476-483
Number of pages8
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000


  • Alcohol Drinking
  • D Receptors
  • Dopamine
  • Microinjections
  • Ventral Tegmental Area

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology

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