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Addict Biol. 2011 Jan;16(1):43-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00206.x.

Implications for glycine receptors and astrocytes in ethanol-induced elevation of dopamine levels in the nucleus accumbens.

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Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry, Institute for Neuroscience and Physiology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.


Elevated dopamine levels are believed to contribute to the rewarding sensation of ethanol (EtOH), and previous research has shown that strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors in the nucleus accumbens (nAc) are involved in regulating dopamine release and in mediating the reinforcing effects of EtOH. Furthermore, the osmoregulator taurine, which is released from astrocytes treated with EtOH, can act as an endogenous ligand for the glycine receptor, and increase extracellular dopamine levels. The aim of this study was to address if EtOH-induced swelling of astrocytes could contribute to elevated dopamine levels by increasing the extracellular concentration of taurine. Cell swelling was estimated by optical sectioning of fluorescently labeled astrocytes in primary cultures from rat, and showed that EtOH (25-150 mM) increased astrocyte cell volumes in a concentration- and ion-dependent manner. The EtOH-induced cell swelling was inhibited in cultures treated with the Na(+) /K(+) /2Cl⁻ cotransporter blocker furosemide (1 mM), Na(+) /K(+) -ATPase inhibitor ouabain (0.1 mM), potassium channel inhibitor BaCl₂ (50 µM) and in cultures containing low extracellular sodium concentration (3 mM). In vivo microdialysis performed in the nAc of awake and freely moving rats showed that local treatment with EtOH enhanced the concentrations of dopamine and taurine in the microdialysate, while glycine and β-alanine levels were not significantly modulated. EtOH-induced dopamine release was antagonized by local treatment with the glycine receptor antagonist strychnine (20 µM) or furosemide (100 µM or 1 mM). Furosemide also prevented EtOH-induced taurine release in the nAc. In conclusion, our data suggest that extracellular concentrations of dopamine and taurine are interconnected and that swelling of astrocytes contributes to the acute rewarding sensation of EtOH.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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