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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2008 Jul;90(1):95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2008.03.007. Epub 2008 Mar 15.

The role of GABA(A) receptors in the development of alcoholism.

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  • 1Laboratory of Neurogenetics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA. maenoch@niaaa.nih.gov

Abstract

Alcoholism is a common, heritable, chronic relapsing disorder. GABA(A) receptors undergo allosteric modulation by ethanol, anesthetics, benzodiazepines and neurosteroids and have been implicated in the acute as well as the chronic effects of ethanol including tolerance, dependence and withdrawal. Medications targeting GABA(A) receptors ameliorate the symptoms of acute withdrawal. Ethanol induces plasticity in GABA(A) receptors: tolerance is associated with generally decreased GABA(A) receptor activation and differentially altered subunit expression. The dopamine (DA) mesolimbic reward pathway originating in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), and interacting stress circuitry play an important role in the development of addiction. VTA GABAergic interneurons are the primary inhibitory regulators of DA neurons and a subset of VTA GABA(A) receptors may be implicated in the switch from heavy drinking to dependence. GABA(A) receptors modulate anxiety and response to stress; important elements of sustained drinking and relapse. The GABA(A) receptor subunit genes clustered on chromosome 4 are highly expressed in the reward pathway. Several recent studies have provided strong evidence that one of these genes, GABRA2, is implicated in alcoholism in humans. The influence of the interaction between ethanol and GABA(A) receptors in the reward pathway on the development of alcoholism together with genetic and epigenetic vulnerabilities will be explored in this review.

PMID:
18440057
PMCID:
PMC2577853
DOI:
10.1016/j.pbb.2008.03.007
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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