The primary objective of this project is to understand the neuronal, cellular and synaptic mechanisms underlying alcohol intoxication and dependence, using intracellular and patch-clamp recording in brain slices and in vivo microdialysis. A central hypothesis is that adaptive changes in synapses cause alcohol dependence. We also hypothesize that neuroadaptations in the GABAergic system play a major role in alcohol reinforcing actions. Our past research has centered on neurons of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), because behavioral studies suggest that the amygdala, and its connections to the NAcc and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, termed the 'extended amygdala,'play a major role in the acute reinforcing effects of ethanol and in the anxiogenic response to ethanol withdrawal. Our planned studies are based on the following rationale: 1) Acute ethanol markedly enhances GABAergic neurotransmission in CeA through the activation of CRF1 receptors. We present the first direct evidence that this ethanol-induced increase in GABAergic response is in part due to increased GABA release. 2) Our preliminary data also indicate that chronic ethanol treatment (GET) greatly enhances baseline GABAergic tone in the CeA. 3) Despite this large increase in basal GABA release, there is a lack of tolerance to acute ethanol-induced GABA release in CeA of GET rats. 4) Our preliminary evidence of neuroadaptive changes in the CRF system and in GABAB receptors in modulating synaptic efficacy following GET. Therefore in this application we propose to study the cellular and molecular basis of ethanol interactions with GABAergic transmission using a multidisciplinary approach.
Specific Aims 1 and 2 will test, in vitro and in vivo, the possible involvement of presynaptic CRF receptors, membrane Ca++ channel and their transduction mechanisms coupled to the regulation of GABA release machinery in the effect of acute (Aim 1) and chronic (Aim2) ethanol in CeA neurons. Understanding the specific presynaptic mechanisms underlying ethanol enhancement of GABA IPSPs induced by both acute and chronic ethanol represents a new challenge for alcohol research and a possible target for the development of therapeutic compounds for the treatment of alcoholism.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
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Neurotoxicology and Alcohol Study Section (NAL)
Program Officer
Liu, Qi-Ying
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Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla
United States
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Buczynski, Matthew W; Herman, Melissa A; Hsu, Ku-Lung et al. (2016) Diacylglycerol lipase disinhibits VTA dopamine neurons during chronic nicotine exposure. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113:1086-91
Herman, Melissa A; Contet, Candice; Roberto, Marisa (2016) A Functional Switch in Tonic GABA Currents Alters the Output of Central Amygdala Corticotropin Releasing Factor Receptor-1 Neurons Following Chronic Ethanol Exposure. J Neurosci 36:10729-10741
Varodayan, Florence P; Soni, Neeraj; Bajo, Michal et al. (2016) Chronic ethanol exposure decreases CB1 receptor function at GABAergic synapses in the rat central amygdala. Addict Biol 21:788-801
Herman, Melissa Ann; Roberto, Marisa (2016) Cell-type-specific tonic GABA signaling in the rat central amygdala is selectively altered by acute and chronic ethanol. Addict Biol 21:72-86
Herman, Melissa A; Varodayan, Florence P; Oleata, Christopher S et al. (2016) Glutamatergic transmission in the central nucleus of the amygdala is selectively altered in Marchigian Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats: Alcohol and CRF effects. Neuropharmacology 102:21-31
Logrip, Marian L; Oleata, Christopher; Roberto, Marisa (2016) Sex differences in responses of the basolateral-central amygdala circuit to alcohol, corticosterone and their interaction. Neuropharmacology 114:123-134
Schweitzer, Paul; Cates-Gatto, Chelsea; Varodayan, Florence P et al. (2016) Dependence-induced ethanol drinking and GABA neurotransmission are altered in Alk deficient mice. Neuropharmacology 107:1-8
Varodayan, Florence P; Bajo, Michal; Soni, Neeraj et al. (2016) Chronic alcohol exposure disrupts CB1 regulation of GABAergic transmission in the rat basolateral amygdala. Addict Biol :
Cui, Changhai; Noronha, Antonio; Warren, Kenneth R et al. (2015) Brain pathways to recovery from alcohol dependence. Alcohol 49:435-52
Repunte-Canonigo, Vez; Herman, Melissa A; Kawamura, Tomoya et al. (2015) Nf1 regulates alcohol dependence-associated excessive drinking and gamma-aminobutyric acid release in the central amygdala in mice and is associated with alcohol dependence in humans. Biol Psychiatry 77:870-9

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