THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOLISM ON THE HUMAN BASOLATERAL AMYGDALA
ABSTRACT: Alcohol affects gene expression in several brain regions. The amygdala is a key structure in the brain’s emotional system and in recent years the crucial importance of the amygdala in drug-seeking and relapse has been increasingly recognized. In this study gene expression screening was used to identify genes involved in alcoholism in the human basolateral amygdala. The results show that alcoholism affects a broad range of genes and many systems including genes involved in synaptic transmission, neurotransmitter transport, structural plasticity, metabolism, energy production, transcription and RNA processing and the circadian cycle. In particular, genes involved in the glutamate system were affected in the alcoholic patients. In the amygdala the glutamate system is involved in the acquisition, consolidation, expression and extinction of associative learning, which is a vital part of addiction, and in alcohol abusers it is associated with withdrawal anxiety and neurodegeneration. Downregulation of the excitatory amino acid transporters GLAST, GLT-1 and the AMPA glutamate receptor 2 (GluR2) revealed by the microarray were confirmed by Western blots. The decreased expression of GLAST, GLT-1 and GluR2 in the alcoholic patients may increase glutamate tone and activity in the basolateral amygdala and this may contribute to neurodegeneration as well as the expression of associative memories and anxiety which underlie continued drug-seeking and chronic relapse. Overall design: Two-condition experiment, alcoholics vs controls. Biological replicates: 6 alcoholics 6 controls, one replicate per array.
INSTRUMENT(S): University of Queensland Human SSH19kv4
Project description:Alcohol affects gene expression in several brain regions. The amygdala is a key structure in the brain’s emotional system and in recent years the crucial importance of the amygdala in drug-seeking and relapse has been increasingly recognized. In this study gene expression screening was used to identify genes involved in alcoholism in the human basolateral amygdala. The results show that alcoholism affects a broad range of genes and many systems including genes involved in synaptic transmission, neurotransmitter transport, structural plasticity, metabolism, energy production, transcription and RNA processing and the circadian cycle. In particular, genes involved in the glutamate system were affected in the alcoholic patients. In the amygdala the glutamate system is involved in the acquisition, consolidation, expression and extinction of associative learning, which is a vital part of addiction, and in alcohol abusers it is associated with withdrawal anxiety and neurodegeneration. Downregulation of the excitatory amino acid transporters GLAST, GLT-1 and the AMPA glutamate receptor 2 (GluR2) revealed by the microarray were confirmed by Western blots. The decreased expression of GLAST, GLT-1 and GluR2 in the alcoholic patients may increase glutamate tone and activity in the basolateral amygdala and this may contribute to neurodegeneration as well as the expression of associative memories and anxiety which underlie continued drug-seeking and chronic relapse. Two-condition experiment, alcoholics vs controls. Biological replicates: 6 alcoholics 6 controls, one replicate per array.
Project description:Environmental stimuli have the ability to generate specific representations of the rewards they predict and in so doing alter the selection and performance of reward-seeking actions. The basolateral amygdala participates in this process, but precisely how is unknown. To rectify this, we monitored, in near-real time, basolateral amygdala glutamate concentration changes during a test of the ability of reward-predictive cues to influence reward-seeking actions (Pavlovian-instrumental transfer). Glutamate concentration was found to be transiently elevated around instrumental reward seeking. During the Pavlovian-instrumental transfer test these glutamate transients were time-locked to and correlated with only those actions invigorated by outcome-specific motivational information provided by the reward-predictive stimulus (i.e., actions earning the same specific outcome as predicted by the presented CS). In addition, basolateral amygdala AMPA, but not NMDA glutamate receptor inactivation abolished the selective excitatory influence of reward-predictive cues over reward seeking. These data support [corrected] the hypothesis that transient glutamate release in the BLA can encode the outcome-specific motivational information provided by reward-predictive stimuli.
Project description:The ability to inhibit drinking is a significant challenge for recovering alcoholics, especially in the presence of alcohol-associated cues. Previous studies have demonstrated that the regulation of cue-guided alcohol seeking is mediated by the basolateral amygdala (BLA), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). However, given the high interconnectivity between these structures, it is unclear how mPFC projections to each subcortical structure, as well as projections between BLA and NAc, mediate alcohol-seeking behaviors. Here, we evaluate how cortico-striatal, cortico-amygdalar, and amygdalo-striatal projections control extinction and relapse in a rat model of alcohol seeking. Specifically, we used a combinatorial viral technique to express diphtheria toxin receptors in specific neuron populations based on their projection targets. We then used this strategy to create directionally selective ablations of three distinct pathways after acquisition of ethanol self-administration but before extinction and reinstatement. We demonstrate that ablation of mPFC neurons projecting to NAc, but not BLA, blocks cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking and neither pathway is necessary for extinction of responding. Further, we show that ablating BLA neurons that project to NAc disrupts extinction of alcohol approach behaviors and attenuates reinstatement. Together, these data provide evidence that the mPFC?NAc pathway is necessary for cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking, expand our understanding of how the BLA?NAc pathway regulates alcohol behavior, and introduce a new methodology for the manipulation of target-specific neural projections.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The vast majority of recovering alcoholics will relapse at least once and understanding how the brain regulates relapse will be key to developing more effective behavior and pharmacological therapies for alcoholism. Given the high interconnectivity of cortical, striatal, and limbic structures that regulate alcohol intake, it has been difficult to disentangle how separate projections between them may control different aspects of these complex behaviors. Here, we demonstrate a new approach for noninvasively ablating each of these pathways and testing their necessity for both extinction and relapse. We show that inputs to the nucleus accumbens from medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala regulate alcohol-seeking behaviors differentially, adding to our understanding of the neural control of alcoholism.
Project description:The environmental context in which a discrete Pavlovian conditioned stimulus (CS) is experienced can profoundly impact conditioned responding elicited by the CS. We hypothesized that alcohol-seeking behavior elicited by a discrete CS that predicted alcohol would be influenced by context and require glutamate signaling in the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Male, Long-Evans rats were allowed to drink 15% ethanol (v/v) until consumption stabilized. Next, rats received Pavlovian conditioning sessions in which a 10?s CS (15 trials/session) was paired with ethanol (0.2?ml/CS). Entries into a port where ethanol was delivered were measured. Pavlovian conditioning occurred in a specific context (alcohol context) and was alternated with sessions in a different context (non-alcohol context) where neither the CS nor ethanol was presented. At test, the CS was presented without ethanol in the alcohol context or the non-alcohol context, following a bilateral microinfusion (0.3??l/hemisphere) of saline or the AMPA glutamate receptor antagonist NBQX (2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrobenzo[f]quinoxaline-7-sulfonamide disodium salt) in the BLA (0, 0.3, or 1.0??g/0.3??l). The effect of NBQX (0, 0.3??g/0.3??l) in the caudate putamen (CPu) on CS responding in the non-alcohol context was also tested. The discrete alcohol CS triggered more alcohol-seeking behavior in the alcohol context than the non-alcohol context. NBQX in the BLA reduced CS responding in both contexts but had no effect in the CPu. These data indicate that AMPA glutamate receptors in the BLA are critical for alcohol-seeking elicited by a discrete CS and that behavior triggered by the CS is strongly invigorated by an alcohol context.
Project description:Metabotropic glutamate receptor subtypes (mGlu2/3) regulate a variety of alcohol-associated behaviors, including alcohol reinforcement, and relapse-like behavior. To date, the role of mGlu2/3 receptors in modulating the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol has not been examined. Given that the discriminative stimulus effects of drugs are determinants of abuse liability and can influence drug seeking, we examined the contributions of mGlu2/3 receptors in modulating the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol. In male Long-Evans rats trained to discriminate between alcohol (1?g/kg, IG) and water, the mGlu2/3 agonist LY379268 (0.3-10?mg/kg) did not produce alcohol-like stimulus effects. However, pretreatment with LY379268 (1 and 3?mg/kg; in combination with alcohol) inhibited the stimulus effects of alcohol (1?g/kg). Systemic LY379268 (3?mg/kg, i.p.) was associated with increases in neuronal activity within the amygdala, but not the nucleus accumbens, as assessed by c-Fos immunoreactivity. Intra-amygdala activation of mGlu2/3 receptors by LY379268 (6??g) inhibited the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol, without altering response rate. In contrast, intra-accumbens LY379268 (3??g) profoundly reduced response rate; however, at lower LY379268 doses (0.3, 1??g), the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol and response rate were not altered. These data suggest that amygdala mGlu2/3 receptors have a functional role in modulating the discriminative stimulus properties of alcohol and demonstrate differential motor sensitivity to activation of mGlu2/3 receptors in the amygdala and the accumbens. Understanding the neuronal mechanisms that underlie the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol may prove to be important for future development of pharmacotherapies for treating alcoholism.
Project description:Modulation of alcohol craving induced by challenge stimuli may predict the efficacy of new pharmacotherapies for alcoholism. We evaluated two pharmacological challenges, the ?(2)-adrenergic antagonist yohimbine, which reinstates alcohol seeking in rats, and the serotonergic compound meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP), previously reported to increase alcohol craving in alcoholics. To assess the predictive validity of this approach, the approved alcoholism medication acamprosate was evaluated for its ability to modulate challenge-induced cravings. A total of 35 treatment seeking alcohol dependent inpatients in early abstinence were randomized to placebo or acamprosate (2997?mg daily). Following two weeks of medication, subjects underwent three challenge sessions with yohimbine, mCPP or saline infusion under double blind conditions, carried out in counterbalanced order, and separated by at least 5 days. Ratings of cravings and anxiety, as well as biochemical measures were obtained. In all, 25 subjects completed all three sessions and were included in the analysis. Cravings were modestly, but significantly higher following both yohimbine and mCPP challenge compared with saline infusion. The mCPP, but not yohimbine significantly increased anxiety ratings. Both challenges produced robust ACTH, cortisol and prolactin responses. There was a significant correlation between craving and the degree of alcoholism severity. Acamprosate administration did not influence craving. Both yohimbine and mCPP challenges lead to elevated alcohol craving in a clinical population of alcoholics, and these cravings correlate with alcoholism severity. Under the experimental conditions used, alcohol cravings induced by these two stimuli are not sensitive to acamprosate at clinically used doses.
Project description:Substance P and its preferred neurokinin receptor NK1 have been implicated in stress and anxiety and have been proposed as possible therapeutic targets for the treatment of anxiety/depression. Attention is also being focused on the role this neuropeptide system may play in drug addiction, because stress-related mechanisms promote drug abuse.The effects of the rat-specific NK1 receptor antagonist, L822429, on alcohol intake and seeking behaviour was investigated in genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian alcohol preferring rats. These rats demonstrate an anxious phenotype and are highly sensitive to stress and stress-induced drinking.Systemic administration of L822429 significantly reduced operant alcohol self-administration in Marchigian Sardinian alcohol preferring rats, but did not reduce alcohol self-administration in stock Wistar rats. NK1 receptor antagonism also attenuated yohimbine-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking at all doses tested but had no effect on cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking. L822429 reduced operant alcohol self-administration when injected into the lateral cerebroventricles or the medial amygdala. L822429 injected into the medial amygdala also significantly reduced anxiety-like behaviour in the elevated plus maze test. No effects on alcohol intake were observed following injection of L822429 into the dorsal or the ventral hippocampus. Conclusions and Implications Our results suggest that NK1 receptor antagonists may be useful for the treatment of alcohol addiction associated with stress or comorbid anxiety disorders. The medial amygdala appears to be an important brain site of action of NK1 receptor antagonism.
Project description:A heightened hedonic response to sweet tastes has been associated with increased alcohol preference and alcohol consumption in both humans and animals. The principal goal of this study was to examine blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) activation to high- and low-concentration sweet solutions in subjects who are either positive (FHP) or negative (FHN) for a family history of alcoholism. Seventy-four non-treatment seeking, community-recruited, healthy volunteers (22.8 ± 1.6 SD years; 43% men) rated a range of sucrose concentrations in a taste test and underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during oral delivery of water, 0.83 M, and 0.10 M sucrose. Sucrose compared to water produced robust activation in primary gustatory cortex, ventral insula, amygdala, and ventral striatum. FHP subjects displayed greater bilateral amygdala activation than FHN subjects in the low sucrose concentration (0.10 M). In secondary analyses, the right amygdala response to the 0.10 M sucrose was greatest in FHP women. When accounting for group differences in drinks per week, the family history groups remained significantly different in their right amygdala response to 0.10 M sucrose. Our findings suggest that the brain response to oral sucrose differs with a family history of alcoholism, and that this response to a mildly reinforcing primary reward might be an endophenotypic marker of alcoholism risk.
Project description:Up to 50% of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors demonstrate persisting and late-onset anxiety disorders indicative of limbic system dysregulation, yet the pathophysiology underlying the symptoms is unclear. We hypothesize that the development of TBI-induced anxiety-like behavior in an experimental model of TBI is mediated by changes in glutamate neurotransmission within the amygdala. Adult, male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent midline fluid percussion injury or sham surgery. Anxiety-like behavior was assessed at 7 and 28 days post-injury (DPI) followed by assessment of real-time glutamate neurotransmission in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) using glutamate-selective microelectrode arrays. The expression of anxiety-like behavior at 28 DPI coincided with decreased evoked glutamate release and slower glutamate clearance in the CeA, not BLA. Numerous factors contribute to the changes in glutamate neurotransmission over time. In two additional animal cohorts, protein levels of glutamatergic transporters (Glt-1 and GLAST) and presynaptic modulators of glutamate release (mGluR2, TrkB, BDNF, and glucocorticoid receptors) were quantified using automated capillary western techniques at 28 DPI. Astrocytosis and microglial activation have been shown to drive maladaptive glutamate signaling and were histologically assessed over 28 DPI. Alterations in glutamate neurotransmission could not be explained by changes in protein levels for glutamate transporters, mGluR2 receptors, astrocytosis, and microglial activation. Presynaptic modulators, BDNF and TrkB, were significantly decreased at 28 DPI in the amygdala. Dysfunction in presynaptic regulation of glutamate neurotransmission may contribute to anxiety-related behavior and serve as a therapeutic target to improve circuit function.
Project description:Alcoholism and anxiety disorders have a huge impact on society and afflict 17.6 million and 40 million people in the United States, respectively. A strong comorbidity exists between alcoholism and anxiety disorders. Indeed, alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety is a primary contributing factor for relapse, and anxiolytics are a common adjuvant therapy prescribed for treatment-seeking alcoholics. It is thought that the use of alcohol to self-medicate and relieve anxiety contributes to the development of addiction. Treatment for anxiety disorders and alcoholism exist but are not universally effective. The delta opioid receptor (DOR) plays a role in both alcohol consumption and anxiety, making it a very interesting clinical target. Two pharmacologically distinct DORs have been described: DOR1 and DOR2. We find here that the relative specificity of DOR agonists for DOR1 or DOR2 can greatly affect the effects they exert on ethanol consumption and anxiety. The DOR1 agonist 2-methyl-4a?-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-1,2,3,4,4a,5,12,12a?-octahydro-quinolino[2,3,30g]isoquinoline (TAN-67), although not effective in decreasing anxiety-like behavior in naive mice, has anxiolytic-like properties in ethanol-withdrawn mice. In contrast, a less subtype-selective agonist, (+)-4-[(?R)-?-((2S,5R)-4-allyl-2,5-dimethyl-1-piperazinyl)-3-methoxybenzyl]-N,N-diethylbenzamide (SNC80), while also reducing anxiety-like behavior, increases ethanol consumption. In addition, we found that the conical anxiolytic diazepam [DZ; 7-chloro-1-methyl-5-phenyl-3H-1,4-benzodiazepin-2(1H)-one] is a less effective anxiolytic in ethanol-withdrawn mice than in naive mice. Together, our findings suggest that selective DOR agonists can decrease anxiety-like behavior and are more effective than diazepam at reducing ethanol consumption. We believe the dual efficacy of DOR1 agonists makes these receptors an interesting therapeutic target for treatment-seeking alcoholics.