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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2012 Apr;341(1):196-204. doi: 10.1124/jpet.111.190058. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Microinjection of glycine into the ventral tegmental area selectively decreases ethanol consumption.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology, UMDNJ, New Jersey Medical School, 185 South Orange Avenue, Newark, NJ 07103, USA.


The mechanisms of ethanol addiction are not completely understood. The mesolimbic dopaminergic system is involved in many drug-related behaviors, including ethanol self-administration. The dopaminergic neurons in this system originate in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and are under the control of GABAergic transmission. Our previous in vitro electrophysiological data indicate that glycine receptors (GlyRs) exist on the GABAergic terminals, which make synapses on VTA dopaminergic neurons, and activation of these GlyRs reduces GABAergic transmission and increases the activity of VTA dopaminergic neurons. In the current study, we tested the hypothesis that the activation of the presynaptic GlyRs in the VTA might interfere with ethanol self-administration. Glycine and strychnine, the selective antagonist of GlyRs, were injected, either alone or in combination, into the VTA of rats. Ethanol self-administration by rats was evaluated by using three different drinking models: intermittent access, continuous access, and operant self-administration. We found that the infusion of glycine into the VTA selectively reduced the intake of ethanol but not sucrose or water in rats chronically exposed to ethanol under the intermittent-access and continuous-access procedures and decreased lever-press responding for ethanol under an operant self-administration procedure. The effects of glycine probably were mediated by strychnine-sensitive GlyRs, because the coinjection of glycine and strychnine reduced neither ethanol intake in the home cages nor lever-press responding for ethanol in the operant chambers. Thus, GlyRs in the VTA may play a critical role in ethanol self-administration in animals chronically exposed to ethanol. Therefore, drugs targeting GlyRs may be beneficial for alcoholics.

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