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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Jun;28(6):865-72.

Increased anxiety-like behavior and ethanol self-administration in dependent rats: reversal via corticotropin-releasing factor-2 receptor activation.

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Department of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, USA.



Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) has been hypothesized to be one of the main regulators of the stress response observed during alcohol withdrawal. The CRF receptor subtypes seem to have a differential role in the regulation of stress-related behavior. Given the behavioral characterization of these receptors, the objective of the following experiments was to characterize the role of CRF2 receptors in the interaction between alcohol and stress by examining the effects of CRF2 receptor activation in the behavioral stress response and ethanol self-administration during early ethanol withdrawal in dependent rats.


Male Wistar rats were made dependent on ethanol via chronic exposure to an ethanol containing liquid diet. Behavior in the elevated plus maze and ethanol self-administration were measured at 2 hr after removal of the diet. The role of the CRF2 receptor in the regulation of these behaviors during the early stages of withdrawal was examined via central injection of the highly selective CRF2 receptor agonist urocortin 3.


Rats showed decreased exploration of the open arms of the elevated plus maze, an indication of a heightened behavioral stress response, after chronic ethanol exposure. This effect was attenuated by central injection of urocortin 3. In addition, urocortin 3 injections reversed the increase in ethanol self-administration observed during early withdrawal in dependent rats.


Reversal of the increased stress-related behavior in the elevated plus maze observed after injections of urocortin 3 indicates that the decreased responding for ethanol also seen after urocortin 3 administration is likely due to a diminished anxiety-like state. These data suggest that activation of the CRF2 receptor may provide a novel target in the attenuation of the stress response characteristic of the early stages of ethanol withdrawal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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