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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 31;106(13):5359-64. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0809804106. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Fetal ethanol exposure increases ethanol intake by making it smell and taste better.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience and Physiology and the Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, 750 East Adams Street, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA. youngens@upstate.edu

Abstract

Human epidemiologic studies reveal that fetal ethanol exposure is highly predictive of adolescent ethanol avidity and abuse. Little is known about how fetal exposure produces these effects. It is hypothesized that fetal ethanol exposure results in stimulus-induced chemosensory plasticity. Here, we asked whether gestational ethanol exposure increases postnatal ethanol avidity in rats by altering its taste and odor. Experimental rats were exposed to ethanol in utero via the dam's diet, whereas control rats were either pair-fed an iso-caloric diet or given food ad libitum. We found that fetal ethanol exposure increased the taste-mediated acceptability of both ethanol and quinine hydrochloride (bitter), but not sucrose (sweet). Importantly, a significant proportion of the increased ethanol acceptability could be attributed directly to the attenuated aversion to ethanol's quinine-like taste quality. Fetal ethanol exposure also enhanced ethanol intake and the behavioral response to ethanol odor. Notably, the elevated intake of ethanol was also causally linked to the enhanced odor response. Our results demonstrate that fetal exposure specifically increases ethanol avidity by, in part, making it taste and smell better. More generally, they establish an epigenetic chemosensory mechanism by which maternal patterns of drug use can be transferred to offspring. Given that many licit (e.g., tobacco products) and illicit (e.g., marijuana) drugs have noteworthy chemosensory components, our findings have broad implications for the relationship between maternal patterns of drug use, child development, and postnatal vulnerability.

PMID:
19273846
PMCID:
PMC2664068
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.0809804106
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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