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Physiol Behav. 2013 Feb 17;110-111:140-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Jan 10.

Chronobiology of alcohol: studies in C57BL/6J and DBA/2J inbred mice.

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Department of Psychology, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA.


Human alcoholics display dramatic disruptions of circadian rhythms that may contribute to the maintenance of excessive drinking, thus creating a vicious cycle. While clinical studies cannot establish direct causal mechanisms, recent animal experiments have revealed bidirectional interactions between circadian rhythms and ethanol intake, suggesting that the chronobiological disruptions seen in human alcoholics are mediated in part by alterations in circadian pacemaker function. The present study was designed to further explore these interactions using C57BL/6J (B6) and DBA/2J (D2) inbred mice, two widely employed strains differing in both circadian and alcohol-related phenotypes. Mice were maintained in running-wheel cages with or without free-choice access to ethanol and exposed to a variety of lighting regimens, including standard light-dark cycles, constant darkness, constant light, and a "shift-lag" schedule consisting of repeated light-dark phase shifts. Relative to the standard light-dark cycle, B6 mice showed reduced ethanol intake in both constant darkness and constant light, while D2 mice showed reduced ethanol intake only in constant darkness. In contrast, shift-lag lighting failed to affect ethanol intake in either strain. Access to ethanol altered daily activity patterns in both B6 and D2 mice, and increased activity levels in D2 mice, but had no effects on other circadian parameters. Thus, the overall pattern of results was broadly similar in both strains, and consistent with previous observations that chronic ethanol intake alters circadian activity patterns while environmental perturbation of circadian rhythms modulates voluntary ethanol intake. These results suggest that circadian-based interventions may prove useful in the management of alcohol use disorders.

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