Tolcapone Suppresses Ethanol Intake in Alcohol-Preferring Rats Performing a Novel Cued Access Protocol

Aqilah M. Mccane, Cristine L. Czachowski, Christopher C. Lapish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations


Background: Dopamine (DA) has been shown to play a central role in regulating motivated behavior and encoding reward. Chronic drug abuse elicits a state of hypodopaminergia in the mesocorticolimbic (MCL) system in both humans and preclinical rodent models of addiction, including those modeling alcohol use disorders (AUD). Methods: Working under the hypothesis that reductions in the bioavailability of DA play an integral role in the expression of the excessive drinking phenotype, the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitor tolcapone was used as a means to amplify cortical DA concentration and drinking behaviors were then assessed. Sucrose and ethanol (EtOH) consumption were measured in P and Wistar rats in both a free choice drinking protocol and a novel cued access protocol. Results: Tolcapone attenuated the consumption of EtOH, and to a lesser extent sucrose, in P rats in the cued access protocol, while no effect was observed in the free choice drinking protocol. Tolcapone also decreased EtOH consumption in high drinking Wistar rats. A follow-up experiment using the indirect DA agonist d-amphetamine showed no change in EtOH consumption. Conclusions: Collectively, these data suggest that COMT inhibitors may be capable of alleviating the extremely motivating or salient nature of stimuli associated with alcohol. The hypothesis is put forth that the relative specificity of tolcapone for cortical DA systems may mediate the suppression of the high seeking/drinking phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2468-2478
Number of pages11
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Alcohol preferring rat
  • Catechol-O-Methyltransferase
  • Dopamine
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Tolcapone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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