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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37999. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037999. Epub 2012 May 22.

Amygdala 14-3-3ζ as a novel modulator of escalating alcohol intake in mice.

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Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Alcoholism is a devastating brain disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The development of alcoholism is caused by alcohol-induced maladaptive changes in neural circuits involved in emotions, motivation, and decision-making. Because of its involvement in these processes, the amygdala is thought to be a key neural structure involved in alcohol addiction. However, the molecular mechanisms that govern the development of alcoholism are incompletely understood. We have previously shown that in a limited access choice paradigm, C57BL/6J mice progressively escalate their alcohol intake and display important behavioral characteristic of alcohol addiction, in that they become insensitive to quinine-induced adulteration of alcohol. This study used the limited access choice paradigm to study gene expression changes in the amygdala during the escalation to high alcohol consumption in C57BL/6J mice. Microarray analysis revealed that changes in gene expression occurred predominantly after one week, i.e. during the initial escalation of alcohol intake. One gene that stood out from our analysis was the adapter protein 14-3-3ζ, which was up-regulated during the transition from low to high alcohol intake. Independent qPCR analysis confirmed the up-regulation of amygdala 14-3-3ζ during the escalation of alcohol intake. Subsequently, we found that local knockdown of 14-3-3ζ in the amygdala, using RNA interference, dramatically augmented alcohol intake. In addition, knockdown of amygdala 14-3-3ζ promoted the development of inflexible alcohol drinking, as apparent from insensitivity to quinine adulteration of alcohol. This study identifies amygdala 14-3-3ζ as a novel key modulator that is engaged during escalation of alcohol use.

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