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Addict Biol. 2017 Mar;22(2):318-330. doi: 10.1111/adb.12326. Epub 2015 Dec 2.

Voluntary ethanol consumption reduces GABAergic neuroactive steroid (3α,5α)3-hydroxypregnan-20-one (3α,5α-THP) in the amygdala of the cynomolgus monkey.

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Department of Psychiatry and Pharmacology, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Neuroscience Institute, National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Italy.
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston Salem, NC, USA.
Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Beaverton, OR, USA.


Neuroactive steroids such as (3α,5α)3-hydroxypregnan-20-one (3α,5α-THP, allopregnanolone) enhance the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic effects of ethanol and modulate excessive drinking in rodents. Moreover, chronic ethanol consumption reduces 3α,5α-THP levels in human plasma, rat hippocampus and mouse limbic regions. We explored the relationship between 3α,5α-THP levels in limbic brain areas and voluntary ethanol consumption in the cynomolgus monkey following daily self-administration of ethanol for 12 months and further examined the relationship to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function prior to ethanol exposure. Monkeys were subjected to scheduled induction of ethanol consumption followed by free access to ethanol or water for 22 h/day over 12 months. Immunohistochemistry was performed using an anti-3α,5α-THP antibody. Prolonged voluntary drinking resulted in individual differences in ethanol consumption that ranged from 1.2 to 4.2 g/kg/day over 12 months. Prolonged ethanol consumption reduced cellular 3α,5α-THP immunoreactivity by 13 ± 2 percent (P < 0.05) in the lateral amygdala and 17 ± 2 percent (P < 0.05) in the basolateral amygdala. The effect of ethanol was most pronounced in heavy drinkers that consumed ≥3 g/kg ≥ 20 percent of days. Consequently, 3α,5α-THP immunoreactivity in both the lateral and basolateral amygdala was inversely correlated with average daily ethanol intake (Spearman r = -0.87 and -0.72, respectively, P < 0.05). However, no effect of ethanol and no correlation between drinking and 3α,5α-THP immunoreactivity were observed in the basomedial amygdala. 3α,5α-THP immunoreactivity following ethanol exposure was also correlated with HPA axis function prior to ethanol exposure. These data indicate that voluntary ethanol drinking reduces amygdala levels of 3α,5α-THP in non-human primates and that amygdala 3α,5α-THP levels may be linked to HPA axis function.


Allopregnanolone; amygdala; chronic ethanol

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