Ceftriaxone reduces alcohol intake in outbred rats while upregulating xCT in the nucleus accumbens core
Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease characterized by an inability to regulate drinking. A critical brain region involved in alcohol consumption is the nucleus accumbens (NA). Glutamate transmission in this region regulates alcohol consumption and relapse to alcohol-seeking. Across multiple alcohol-administration rodent models, basal extracellular glutamate levels are increased in the NA during early withdrawal. Glutamate transporter 1 (GLT-1) and system xC −, containing the subunit xCT, regulate NA glutamate levels. Ceftriaxone (Cef) increases expression and function of both transporters following extinction from cocaine self-administration and here we sought to determine if Cef would similarly decrease alcohol consumption while increasing xCT and GLT-1 in the NA core. We used the intermittent access to alcohol (IAA) paradigm to induce drinking in outbred Sprague-Dawley rats; this paradigm permits rats access to alcohol (20%v/v) for 24-h without water deprivation, followed by 24-h of abstinence. Following 17 24-h drinking sessions, Cef treatment (200 mg/kg IP) was initiated and continued for 5 days while a control group received vehicle (0.9% saline IP). Alcohol consumption was assessed for two 24-h periods during Cef and two 24-h periods after cessation of Cef treatment. In a separate cohort of rats, Cef’s ability to alter blood alcohol levels (BALs) after a non-contingent alcohol injection (1 g/kg) was assessed. We found that Cef decreased alcohol consumption during the period of Cef treatment and on the two days following injections, and this was accompanied by an increase in NA core xCT expression. Furthermore, a history of alcohol consumption did not alter xCT and GLT-1 expression relative to alcohol-naïve controls. Cef did not alter BALs, indicating that the reduction in alcohol consumption was not caused by altered alcohol clearance. These results indicate that while Cef reduces alcohol consumption in outbred rats, its ability to do so is not associated with an increase in GLT-1 expression.