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J Neurosci. 2000 May 1;20(9):3157-64.

Ethanol-associated behaviors of mice lacking norepinephrine.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Biochemistry, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Although norepinephrine (NE) has been implicated in animal models of ethanol consumption for many years, the exact nature of its influence is not clear. Lesioning and pharmacological studies examining the role of NE in ethanol consumption have yielded conflicting results. We took a genetic approach to determine the effect of NE depletion on ethanol-mediated behaviors by using dopamine beta-hydroxylase knockout (Dbh -/-) mice that specifically lack the ability to synthesize NE. Dbh -/- males have reduced ethanol preference in a two-bottle choice paradigm and show a delay in extinguishing an ethanol-conditioned taste aversion, suggesting that they drink less ethanol in part because they find its effects more aversive. Both male and female Dbh -/- mice are hypersensitive to the sedative and hypothermic effects of systemic ethanol administration, and the sedation phenotype can be rescued pharmacologically by acute replacement of central NE. Neither the decreased body temperature nor changes in ethanol metabolism can explain the differences in consumption and sedation. These results demonstrate a significant role for NE in modulating ethanol-related behaviors and physiological responses.

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