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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2008 Aug;326(2):596-603. doi: 10.1124/jpet.107.135418. Epub 2008 May 23.

Brain regional differences in the effect of ethanol on GABA release from presynaptic terminals.

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  • 1Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


Whereas ethanol has behavioral actions consistent with increased GABAergic function, attempts to demonstrate a direct enhancement of GABA-gated currents by ethanol have produced mixed results. Recent work has suggested that a part of the GABAergic profile of ethanol may result from enhanced GABA release from presynaptic terminals. The present study examines the effect of ethanol on GABA release in several brain regions to assess the regional nature of ethanol-induced GABA release. Whole-cell voltage clamp recording of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) from mechanically dissociated neurons and miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs) and paired-pulse ratio (PPR) from a slice preparation were used to quantify GABA release. Ethanol produced a concentration-dependent increase in the frequency of sIPSCs recorded from mechanically dissociated cerebellar Purkinje neurons and mIPSCs from substantia nigra neurons without having an effect on sIPSCs recorded from lateral septal or cerebrocortical neurons. This regional difference in the effect of ethanol on GABA release was confirmed with PPR recording from brain slices. These data indicate that ethanol can act on presynaptic terminals to increase GABA release in some brain regions while having little or no effect on GABA release in others. This regional difference is consistent with earlier in vivo studies in which ethanol affected neural activity and sensitivity to GABA in some, but not all, brain sites.

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