Emerging evidence implicates a role for toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in the CNS effects of alcohol. We examined the question of whether TLR4-MyD88-dependent signalling is involved in the acute behavioural actions of alcohol and if alcohol can activate TLR4-downstream MAPK and NF-κB pathways. The TLR4 pathway was evaluated using the TLR4 antagonist (+)-naloxone (opioid receptor-inactive isomer) and mice with null mutations in the TLR4 and MyD88 genes. Sedation and motor impairment induced by a single dose of alcohol were assessed by loss of righting reflex (LORR) and rotarod tests, separately. The phosphorylation of JNK, ERK and p38, and levels of IκBαwere measured to determine the effects of acute alcohol exposure on MAPK and NF-κB signaling. After a single dose of alcohol, both pharmacological inhibition of TLR4 signalling with (+)-naloxone and genetic deficiency of TLR4 or MyD88 significantly (P <0.0001) reduced the duration of LORR by 45-78% and significantly decreased motor impairment recovery time to 62-88% of controls. These behavioural actions were not due to changes in the peripheral or central alcohol pharmacokinetics. IκBαlevels responded to alcohol by 30 min in mixed hippocampal cell samples, from wild-type mice, but not in cells from TLR4- or MyD88-deficient mice. Our data provide new evidence that TLR4-MyD88 signalling is involved in the acute behavioral actions of alcohol in mice. Sigma (σ) receptors have been implicated in the behavioral and motivational effects of alcohol and psychostimulants. Sigma receptor antagonists reduce the reinforcing effects of alcohol and excessive alcohol intake in both genetic (alcohol-preferring rats) and environmental (chronic alcohol-induced) models of alcoholism. We tested the hypothesis that pharmacological activation of σ-receptors facilitates ethanol reinforcement and induces excessive, binge-like ethanol intake. The effects of repeated subcutaneous treatment with the selective σ-receptor agonist 1,3-di-(2-tolyl)guanidine (DTG;15 mg/kg, twice a day for 7 days) on operant ethanol (10%) self-administration were studied in Sardinian alcohol-preferring (sP) rats. To confirm that the effect of DTG was mediated by σ-receptors, the effects of pretreatment with the selective σ-receptor antagonist BD-1063 (7 mg/kg, subcutaneously) were determined. To assess the specificity of action, the effects of DTG on the self-administration of equally reinforcing solutions of saccharin or sucrose were also determined. Finally, gene expression of opioid receptors in brain areas implicated in ethanol reinforcement was analyzed in ethanol-naive sP rats treated acutely or repeatedly with DTG, because of the well-established role of the opioid system in alcohol reinforcement and addiction. Repeatedly administered DTG progressively and dramatically increased ethanol self-administration in sP rats and increased blood alcohol levels, which reached mean values close to 100 mg% in 1 h drinking sessions. Repeated DTG treatment also increased the rats'motivation to work for alcohol under a progressive-ratio schedule of reinforcement. BD-1063 prevented the effects of DTG, confirming that σ-receptors mediate the effects of DTG. Repeated DTG treatment also increased the self-administration of the non-drug reinforcers saccharin and sucrose. Naive sP rats repeatedly treated with DTG showed increased mRNA expression of μ- and δ-opioid receptors in the ventral tegmental area. These results suggest a key facilitatory role for σ-receptors in the reinforcing effects of alcohol and identify a potential mechanism that contributes to binge-like and excessive drinking.

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