Behavioral Characterization of Alcohol-Tolerant and Alcohol-Nontolerant Rat Lines and an F2 Generation

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The Alcohol Tolerant (AT) and Alcohol Nontolerant (ANT) rats, selectively bred for ethanol-induced ataxia on the inclined plane at ALKO in Finland, were moved to the University of Colorado in 1998. The selection phenotype was tested on generation 60 animals in Colorado. In week one, ataxia was measured on the inclined plane 30 minutes after an intraperitoneal dose of 2 g/kg 15% w/v ethanol. Differences in ethanol-induced ataxia between the AT and ANT lines at the University of Colorado were similar to those in the original lines in Finland. In week two, ataxia was measured on the inclined plane at 5 and 30 minutes, and tolerance was measured as the time to regain the original angle of sliding. The AT rats rapidly developed tolerance to 2 g/kg ethanol on the inclined plane; tolerance development was significantly slower in the ANT rats. In week three, the animals were tested for the duration of loss of righting reflex (LORR) and blood ethanol concentration at regain of the righting reflex (BECRRR) following a dose of 3.5 g/kg. The AT rats had a significantly higher BECRRR than did the ANT rats, but did not differ in LORR. A separate experiment with previously untreated rats demonstrated that naïve animals of the two lines did not differ in BECRRR or LORR. AT and ANT rats were genotyped for the mutation that occurs in the gene for the α6 subunit of the GABAA receptor, a natural mutation that is known to affect benzodiazepine responses. All ANT animals tested carried the mutant allele, whereas some AT families carried the mutation and others were wild type. There was no effect of the mutation in AT rats for any of the phenotypes that were tested. After several generations of brother–sister mating, the AT and ANT lines were more than 90% inbred as determined by genotyping. One AT (wild-type) line and one ANT (mutant) line were selected for breeding an F2 intercross generation of 1200 animals. They were phenotyped for sensitivity and tolerance to ethanol on each of three consecutive weeks. Order of testing had a modest effect on some of the phenotypes: when tested during the third week as compared to weeks one or two, BECRRR was increased, 30-minute sensitivity was increased, and development of acute tolerance was increased. Statistically significant correlations were found between tolerance and sensitivity at both 5 and 30 minutes, and between LORR and BECRRR. The smaller (or absence of) significant correlations between others of the phenotypes indicate(s) that they are most likely controlled by different sets of genes.

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