Enhanced alcohol-drinking behavior associated with active ghrelinergic and serotoninergic neurons in the lateral hypothalamus and amygdala

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Abstract

Central ghrelin is required for the rewarding properties of drug abuse. We investigated whether alcohol affects ghrelinergic, dopaminergic, and serotoninergic neurons and growth hormone secretagogue receptor 1A (GHS-R1A) levels in the reward system of the brain. Alcohol-naïve C57BL/6 J mice received 2 g/kg ethanol (EtOH) intraperitoneally (i.p.). Plasma ghrelin levels decreased between 1 and 4 h. We investigated the effects of EtOH administration on plasma ghrelin levels in two different animal models at 1, 3, and 10 months of age. Plasma ghrelin levels decreased following the EtOH treatment in 1- and 3-month-old short-term (1-day) alcohol vapor-exposed (STA) mice. In contrast, EtOH administration increased plasma ghrelin levels in 1- and 3-month-old long-term (20-day) alcohol vapor-exposed (LTA) mice. In vivo ghrelin release in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) increased in STA and LTA mice after the i.p. administration of EtOH. EtOH increased in vivo dopamine (DA), but not serotonin (5-HT) release in the LH of STA mice, and increased in vivo DA and 5-HT release in the LH of LTA mice. GHS-R1A mRNA expression and GHS-R1A protein levels in the LH were increased in LTA mice. The number of GHS-R1A-immunoreactive cells was greater in the LH and amygdala of LTA mice. These results support the neurobiological correlation between the development of drinking behavior and activation of ghrelinergic and serotonergic neurons in the LH. The activation of ghrelinergic systems in the amygdala may also induce an increase in 5-HT release in the LH during long-term alcohol intake.

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