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Neuroscience. 2016 Oct 29;335:195-206. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.08.032. Epub 2016 Aug 27.

Sex differences in alcohol consumption and alterations in nucleus accumbens endocannabinoid mRNA in alcohol-dependent rats.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA. Electronic address: angela.m.williams@wsu.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA.
3
Department of Integrative Physiology & Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA.
4
Translational Addiction Research Center, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA; Department of Integrative Physiology & Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA.

Abstract

Chronic intermittent alcohol (CIA) exposure produces altered motivational states characterized by anxiety and escalated alcohol consumption during withdrawal. The endocannabinoid (ECB) system contributes to these symptoms, and sex differences in alcohol dependence, as well as bidirectional interactions between ECBs and gonadal hormones have been documented. Thus, we evaluated sex differences in alcohol consumption, anxiety-like behavior, and ECB mRNA expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of alcohol-dependent rats during acute withdrawal. Male rats exposed to six weeks of CIA showed escalated alcohol consumption during acute withdrawal and reductions in NAc N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipase D (NAPEPLD), DAG lipase alpha (DAGLα), and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) mRNA. Intact alcohol-dependent female rats also escalated their consumption, but notably, this effect was also present in non-dependent females. No differences in NAc ECB mRNA were observed between CIA- and air-exposed females during acute withdrawal. However, when these data were analyzed according to estrous stage, significant differences in NAPEPLD and MAGL mRNA expression emerged in the NAc of air-exposed control rats, which were absent in alcohol-dependent females. We subsequently measured alcohol consumption and NAc ECB mRNA in ovariectomized (OVX) females with or without estradiol (E2) replacement during withdrawal. Neither E2 nor CIA altered alcohol consumption in OVX females. However, E2 reduced both DAGLα and MAGL mRNA, suggesting that E2 may influence the biosynthesis and degradation of 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the NAc. Collectively, these studies indicate sexual dimorphism in alcohol consumption in non-dependent rats and suggest that E2-mediated alterations in NAc ECB mRNA expression during withdrawal may be a mechanism by which sex differences in alcohol dependence emerge.

KEYWORDS:

alcohol; endocannabinoids; nucleus accumbens; sex-differences

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