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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54930. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054930. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Differential phosphorylation of GluN1-MAPKs in rat brain reward circuits following long-term alcohol exposure.

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  • 1Department of Forensic Science, School of Medicine, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Key Laboratory of Ministry of Public Health for Forensic Science, Xi'an, China.


The effects of long-term alcohol consumption on the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) pathway and N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptor 1 (GluN1) subunits in the mesocorticolimbic system remain unclear. In the present study, rats were allowed to consume 6% (v/v) alcohol solution for 28 consecutive days. Locomotor activity and behavioral signs of withdrawal were observed. Phosphorylation and expression of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), p38 protein kinase and GluN1 in the nucleus accumbens, caudate putamen, amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of these rats were also measured. Phosphorylation of ERK, but not JNK or p38, was decreased in all five brain regions studied in alcohol-drinking rats. The ratio of phospho/total-GluN1 subunit was reduced in all five brain regions studied. Those results suggest that the long-term alcohol consumption can inhibits GluN1 and ERK phosphorylation, but not JNK or p38 in the mesocorticolimbic system, and these changes may be relevant to alcohol dependence. To differentiate alcohol-induced changes in ERK and GluN1 between acute and chronic alcohol exposure, we have determined levels of phospho-ERK, phospho-GluN1 and total levels of GluN1 after acute alcohol exposure. Our data show that 30 min following a 2.5 g/kg dose of alcohol (administered intragastrically), levels of phospho-ERK are decreased while those of phospho-GluN1 are elevated with no change in total GluN1 levels. At 24 h following the single alcohol dose, levels of phospho-ERK are elevated in several brain regions while there are no differences between controls and alcohol treated animals in phospho-GluN1 or total GluN1. Those results suggest that alcohol may differentially regulate GluN1 function and ERK activation depending on alcohol dose and exposure time in the central nervous system.

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