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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 15;108(11):4465-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1019020108. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

Binge alcohol drinking is associated with GABAA alpha2-regulated Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) expression in the central amygdala.

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Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Binge drinking (blood-alcohol levels ≥ 0.08 g% in a 2-h period), is a significant public health burden in need of improved treatment. Gene therapy may offer beneficial alternatives to current psychosocial and pharmacotherapeutic interventions, but identification of the target genes is a clinical challenge. We report that a GABA(A) α2 siRNA vector (pHSVsiLA2) infused into the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) of alcohol-preferring (P) rats caused profound and selective reduction of binge drinking associated with inhibition of α2 expression, decreased GABA(A) receptor density, and inhibition of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). CeA infusion of a TLR4 siRNA vector (pHSVsiLTLR4a) also inhibited binge drinking, but neither vector functioned when infused into the ventral pallidum. Binge drinking was inhibited by a GABA(A) α1 siRNA vector (pHSVsiLA1) infused into the ventral pallidum, unrelated to TLR4. The vectors did not alter sucrose intake and a scrambled siRNA vector was negative. The data indicate that GABA(A) α2-regulated TLR4 expression in the CeA contributes to binge drinking and may be a key early neuroadaptation in excessive drinking.

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