Antagonising TLR4-TRIF signalling before or after a low-dose alcohol binge during adolescence prevents alcohol drinking but not seeking behaviour in adulthood
Adolescents frequently engage in risky behaviours such as binge drinking. Binge drinking, in turn, perturbs neurodevelopment reinforcing reward seeking behaviour in adulthood. Current animal models are limited in their portrayal of this behaviour and the assessment of neuroimmune involvement (specifically the role of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)). Therefore, the aims of this project were to develop a more relevant animal model of adolescent alcohol exposure and to characterise its effects on TLR4 signalling and alcohol-related behaviours later life. Balb/c mice received a short (P22–P25), low dose alcohol binge during in early adolescence, and underwent tests to investigate anxiety (elevated plus maze), alcohol seeking (conditioned place preference) and binge drinking behaviour (drinking in the dark) in adulthood. Four doses of alcohol during adolescence increased alcohol-induced conditioned place preference and alcohol intake in adulthood. However, this model did not affect basal elevated plus maze performance. Subsequent analysis of nucleus accumbal mRNA, revealed increased expression of TLR4-related mRNAs in mice who received alcohol during adolescence. To further elucidate the role of TLR4, (+)-Naltrexone, a biased TLR4 antagonist was administered 30 min before or after the adolescent binge paradigm. When tested in adulthood, (+)-Naltrexone treated mice exhibited reduced alcohol intake however, alcohol seeking and anxiety behaviour was unaltered. This study highlights that even a small amount of alcohol, when given during a critical neurodevelopmental period, can potentiate alcohol-related behaviours and TLR4 activation later in life. Interestingly, attenuation of TLR4 before or after adolescent alcohol exposure reduced only binge alcohol intake in adulthood.