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Alcohol. 2010 Jun;44(4):323-34. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2010.05.002. Epub 2010 Jun 18.

Predictors of ethanol consumption in adult Sprague-Dawley rats: relation to hypothalamic peptides that stimulate ethanol intake.

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The Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA.


To investigate mechanisms in outbred animals that increase the propensity to consume ethanol, it is important to identify and characterize these animals before or at early stages in their exposure to ethanol. In the present study, different measures were examined in adult Sprague-Dawley rats to determine whether they can predict long-term propensity to overconsume ethanol. Before consuming 9% ethanol with a two-bottle choice paradigm, rats were examined with the commonly used behavioral measures of novelty-induced locomotor activity and anxiety, as assessed during 15 min in an open-field activity chamber. Two additional measures, intake of a low 2% ethanol concentration or circulating triglyceride (TG) levels after a meal, were also examined with respect to their ability to predict chronic 9% ethanol consumption. The results revealed significant positive correlations across individual rats between the amount of 9% ethanol ultimately consumed and three of these different measures, with high scores for activity, 2% ethanol intake, and TGs identifying rats that consume 150% more ethanol than rats with low scores. Measurements of hypothalamic peptides that stimulate ethanol intake suggest that they contribute early to the greater ethanol consumption predicted by these high scores. Rats with high 2% ethanol intake or high TGs, two measures found to be closely related, had significantly elevated expression of enkephalin (ENK) and galanin (GAL) in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) but no change in neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the arcuate nucleus (ARC). This is in contrast to rats with high activity scores, which in addition to elevated PVN ENK expression showed enhanced NPY in the ARC but no change in GAL. Elevated ENK is a common characteristic related to all three predictors of chronic ethanol intake, whereas the other peptides differentiate these predictors, with GAL enhanced with high 2% ethanol intake and TG measures but NPY related to activity.

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