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Behav Brain Res. 2011 Jun 1;219(2):234-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.01.019. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Differences of acute versus chronic ethanol exposure on anxiety-like behavioral responses in zebrafish.

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  • 1Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Programs in Biological Sciences and Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-2811, United States.


Zebrafish, a vertebrate model organism amenable to high throughput screening, is an attractive system to model and study the mechanisms underlying human diseases. Alcoholism and alcoholic medical disorders are among the most debilitating diseases, yet the mechanisms by which ethanol inflicts the disease states are not well understood. In recent years zebrafish behavior assays have been used to study learning and memory, fear and anxiety, and social behavior. It is important to characterize the effects of ethanol on zebrafish behavioral repertoires in order to successfully harvest the strength of zebrafish for alcohol research. One prominent effect of alcohol in humans is its effect on anxiety, with acute intermediate doses relieving anxiety and withdrawal from chronic exposure increasing anxiety, both of which have significant contributions to alcohol dependence. In this study, we assess the effects of both acute and chronic ethanol exposure on anxiety-like behaviors in zebrafish, using two behavioral paradigms, the Novel Tank Diving Test and the Light/Dark Choice Assay. Acute ethanol exposure exerted significant dose-dependent anxiolytic effects. However, withdrawal from repeated intermittent ethanol exposure disabled recovery from heightened anxiety. These results demonstrate that zebrafish exhibit different anxiety-like behavioral responses to acute and chronic ethanol exposure, which are remarkably similar to these effects of alcohol in humans. Because of the accessibility of zebrafish to high throughput screening, our results suggest that genes and small molecules identified in zebrafish will be of relevance to understand how acute versus chronic alcohol exposure have opposing effects on the state of anxiety in humans.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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