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Addict Biol. 2016 Jan;21(1):72-86. doi: 10.1111/adb.12181. Epub 2014 Aug 29.

Cell-type-specific tonic GABA signaling in the rat central amygdala is selectively altered by acute and chronic ethanol.

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Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.


The central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) is an important site for the reinforcing effects of ethanol and has been implicated in the development of alcohol dependence. The CeA GABAA receptor system is particularly vulnerable to the effects of acute and chronic ethanol exposure. Previous work in the CeA focused on ethanol and phasic GABAA receptor signaling, but tonic GABAA receptor signaling in the rat CeA remains understudied. In the present study, we found that the CeA contains two types of tonic conductance that are expressed in a cell-type-specific manner. Low threshold bursting (LTB) and some regular spiking (RS) neurons have an ongoing tonic conductance that is mediated by the α1-GABAA receptor subunit and is insensitive to acute ethanol exposure. Late spiking (LS) and a separate population of RS neurons do not display a persistent tonic conductance but have the potential for tonic signaling that is mediated by the δ-GABAA receptor subunit and can be activated by increasing the ambient GABA concentration or by acute ethanol exposure. Acute ethanol exposure differentially alters the firing discharge of different CeA cell types. Chronic ethanol exposure produces a switch in tonic signaling such that the tonic conductance in LTB and some RS neurons is lost and an ongoing tonic conductance is present in LS and a separate population of RS neurons. Collectively, these data demonstrate cell-type-specific tonic signaling in the CeA and provide new insight into how acute and chronic ethanol exposure differentially alter specific aspects of inhibitory circuitry in the CeA.


Alcohol; GABAA; delta

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