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Neuropharmacology. 2015 Feb;89:157-67. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2014.09.003. Epub 2014 Sep 16.

Ethanol induced adaptations in 5-HT2c receptor signaling in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis: implications for anxiety during ethanol withdrawal.

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Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.
Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. Electronic address:


One of the hallmarks of alcohol dependence is the presence of a withdrawal syndrome during abstinence, which manifests as physical craving for alcohol accompanied by subjective feelings of anxiety. Using a model of chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) vapor in mice, we investigated the role of serotonin2c receptor (5HT2c-R) signaling in the BNST as a neural substrate underlying ethanol-induced anxiety during withdrawal. Mice were subjected to a 5-day CIE regimen of 16 h of ethanol vapor exposure followed by an 8 h "withdrawal" period between exposures. After the 5th and final exposure, mice were withdrawn for 24 h or 1 week before experiments began. Anxiety-like behavior was assessed in the social approach, light dark, and open field tests with mice showing deficits in social, but not general anxiety-like behavior that was alleviated by pretreatment with the 5HT2c-R antagonist SB 242,084 (3 mg/kg, i.p.) 24 h and 1 week post-CIE. Using immunohistochemistry and whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology, we also found that CIE increased FOS-IR and enhanced neuronal excitability in the ventral BNST (vBNST) 24 h into withdrawal in a 5HT2c-R dependent manner. This enhanced excitability persisted for 1 week post-CIE. We also found that mCPP, a 5HT2c/b agonist, induced a more robust depolarization in cells of the vBNST in CIE mice, confirming that 5HT2c-R signaling is upregulated in the vBNST following CIE. Taken together, these results suggest that CIE upregulates 5HT2c-R signaling in the vBNST, leading to increased excitability. This enhanced excitability of the vBNST may drive increased anxiety-like behavior during ethanol withdrawal.


Anxiety; Bed nucleus of stria terminalis; Ethanol; Serotonin; Withdrawal

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