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J Neurosci. 2012 Nov 7;32(45):15849-58. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2846-12.2012.

The small G protein H-Ras in the mesolimbic system is a molecular gateway to alcohol-seeking and excessive drinking behaviors.

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  • 1Ernest Gallo Research Center and Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, Emeryville, California 94608, USA.

Abstract

Uncontrolled consumption of alcohol is a hallmark of alcohol abuse disorders; however, the central molecular mechanisms underlying excessive alcohol consumption are still unclear. Here, we report that the GTP binding protein, H-Ras in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) plays a key role in neuroadaptations that underlie excessive alcohol-drinking behaviors. Specifically, acute (15 min) systemic administration of alcohol (2.5 g/kg) leads to the activation of H-Ras in the NAc of mice, which is observed even 24 h later. Similarly, rat operant self-administration of alcohol (20%) also results in the activation of H-Ras in the NAc. Using the same procedures, we provide evidence suggesting that the exchange factor GRF1 is upstream of H-Ras activation by alcohol. Importantly, we show that infection of mice NAc with lentivirus expressing a short hairpin RNA that targets the H-Ras gene produces a significant reduction of voluntary consumption of 20% alcohol. In contrast, knockdown of H-Ras in the NAc of mice did not alter water, quinine, and saccharin intake. Furthermore, using two-bottle choice and operant self-administration procedures, we show that inhibiting H-Ras activity by intra-NAc infusion of the farnesyltransferase inhibitor, FTI-276, produced a robust decrease of rats' alcohol drinking; however, sucrose consumption was unaltered. Finally, intra-NAc infusion of FTI-276 also resulted in an attenuation of seeking for alcohol. Together, these results position H-Ras as a central molecular mediator of alcohol's actions within the mesolimbic system and put forward the potential value of the enzyme as a novel target to treat alcohol use disorders.

PMID:
23136424
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3514017
Free PMC Article
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