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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Jan;332(1):298-307. doi: 10.1124/jpet.109.159186. Epub 2009 Oct 20.

Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) sensitization of ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior is brain site specific and mediated by CRF-1 receptors: relation to stress-induced sensitization.

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  • 1Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7178, USA.


In abstinent alcoholics, stress induces negative affect-a response linked to craving and relapse. In rats, repeated stresses at weekly intervals before 5-day ethanol diet sensitize withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior ("anxiety") that is blocked by a corticotrophin-releasing factor 1 (CRF-1)-receptor antagonist. Current experiments were performed to identify brain sites that support CRF involvement in stress sensitization of ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior. First, different doses of CRF microinjected weekly into the central amygdala (CeA) before ethanol exposure produced a dose-related sensitization of anxiety during ethanol withdrawal. Subsequently, CRF microinjection into the basolateral amygdala, dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), or dorsal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (d-BNST) also sensitized ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety. In contrast, sensitization of ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety was not observed after weekly CRF administration into the ventral-BNST, CA1-hippocampal region, or hypothalamic-paraventricular nucleus. Then, experiments documented the CRF receptor subtype responsible for CRF and stress sensitization of withdrawal-induced anxiety. Systemic administration of a CRF-1 receptor antagonist before CRF microinjection into the CeA, DRN, or d-BNST prevented CRF-induced sensitization of anxiety during ethanol withdrawal. Furthermore, repeated microinjections of urocortin-3, a CRF-2 receptor agonist, into the CRF-positive sites did not sensitize anxiety after withdrawal from ethanol. Finally, microinjection of a CRF-1 receptor antagonist into the CeA, DRN, or d-BNST before stress blocked sensitization of anxiety-like behavior induced by the repeated stress/ethanol withdrawal protocol. These results indicate that CRF released by stress acts on CRF-1 receptors within specific brain regions to produce a cumulative adaptation that sensitizes anxiety-like behavior during withdrawal from chronic ethanol exposure.

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