Long-lasting alterations of the mesolimbic dopamine system after periadolescent ethanol drinking by alcohol-preferring rats

A. E. Sahr, R. J. Thielen, L. Lumeng, T. K. Li, William J. McBride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


Background: This study tested the hypothesis that ethanol consumption by alcohol-preferring (P) rats during the periadolescent period causes persistent alterations in the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system. After ethanol drinking during periadolescence, P rats were examined for alterations in basal locomotor activity, changes in extracellular DA levels and extraction fraction in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) by using no-net-flux (NNF) microdialysis, and changes in the response of the mesolimbic DA system to ethanol. Methods: Male P rat pups were given 24-hr free-choice access to 15% (v/v) ethanol from postnatal day (PD) 30 through PD 60. On PD 70, rats were assessed for locomotor activity. On PD 70 to 80, rats were implanted with bilateral guide cannulas aimed above the NAc. After at least 5 days, microdialysis probes were inserted bilaterally; on the following day, NNF microdialysis experiments were conducted. On the day after the NNF experiment, conventional microdialysis experiments were conducted to measure extracellular levels of DA in response to intraperitoneal injection of saline or ethanol 2.5 g/kg. Results: Compared with the ethanol-naive group, ethanol drinking by P rats during periadolescence did not alter basal locomotor activity, nor did it alter the basal extracellular concentration of DA. There was, however, a significant increase in the extraction fraction of DA of ethanol-drinking animals relative to the controls (57.4 ± 2.7% and 45.8 ± 2.3%, respectively). Additionally, compared with controls, P rats with exposure to ethanol during the periadolescent period showed a prolonged increase in the extracellular levels of DA after a challenge dose of ethanol. Conclusions: The results of the microdialysis experiments suggest that periadolescent ethanol drinking by P rats increases basal DA neurotransmission (as indicated by higher DA clearance while maintaining the same extracellular DA concentrations) and prolongs the response of DA neurotransmission to ethanol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)702-711
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Alcohol-Preferring Rats
  • Dopamine
  • No Net Flux
  • Nucleus Accumbens
  • Periadolescent Alcohol Drinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology

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