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Cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior is associated with increased ERK1/2 phosphorylation in specific limbic brain regions: blockade by the mGluR5 antagonist MPEP.

Department of Psychiatry, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thurston-Bowles Building
Neuropharmacology (Impact Factor: 4.82). 08/2008; 55(4):546-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.057
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Relapse to alcohol use after periods of abstinence is a hallmark behavioral pathology of alcoholism and a major clinical problem. Emerging evidence indicates that metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) antagonists attenuate relapse to alcohol-seeking behavior but the molecular mechanisms of this potential therapeutic effect remain unexplored. The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) pathway is downstream of mGluR5 and has been implicated in addiction. We sought to determine if cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior, and its reduction by an mGluR5 antagonist, is associated with changes in ERK1/2 activation in reward-related limbic brain regions. Selectively-bred alcohol-preferring (P) rats were trained to lever press on a concurrent schedule of alcohol (15% v/v) vs. water reinforcement. Following 9 days of extinction, rats were given an additional extinction trial or injected with the mGluR5 antagonist MPEP (0, 1, 3, or 10mg/kg) and tested for cue-induced reinstatement. Brains were removed 90-min later from the rats in the extinction and MPEP (0 or 10mg/kg) conditions for analysis of p-ERK1/2, total ERK1/2, and p-ERK5 immunoreactivity (IR). Cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior was associated with a three to five-fold increase in p-ERK1/2 IR in the basolateral amygdala and nucleus accumbens shell. MPEP administration blocked both the relapse-like behavior and increase in p-ERK1/2 IR. p-ERK1/2 IR in the central amygdala and NAcb core was dissociated with the relapse-like behavior and the pharmacological effect of mGluR5 blockade. No changes in total ERK or p-ERK5 were observed. These results suggest that exposure to cues previously associated with alcohol self-administration is sufficient to produce concomitant increases in relapse-like behavior and ERK1/2 activation in specific limbic brain regions. Pharmacological compounds, such as mGluR5 antagonists, that reduce cue-induced ERK1/2 activation may be useful for treatment of relapse in alcoholics that is triggered by exposure to environmental events.

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