Publications (16)

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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The OPRM1 A118G polymorphism is the most widely studied μ-opioid receptor (MOR) variant. Although its involvement in acute alcohol effects is well characterized, less is known about the extent to which it alters responses to opioids. Prior work has shown that both electrophysiological and analgesic responses to morphine but not to fentanyl are moderated by OPRM1 A118G variation, but the mechanism behind this dissociation is not known. Here, we found that humanized mice carrying the 118GG allele (h/mOPRM1-118GG) were less sensitive than h/mOPRM1-118AA littermates to the rewarding effects of morphine and hydrocodone but not those of other opioids measured with intracranial self-stimulation. Reduced morphine reward in 118GG mice was associated with decreased dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and reduced effects on GABA release in the ventral tegmental area that were not due to changes in drug potency or efficacy in vitro or receptor binding affinity. Fewer MOR binding sites were observed in h/mOPRM1-118GG mice, and pharmacological reduction of MOR availability unmasked genotypic differences in fentanyl sensitivity. These findings suggest that the OPRM1 A118G polymorphism decreases sensitivity to low potency agonists by decreasing receptor reserve without significantly altering receptor function.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 16 April 2015. doi:10.1038/npp.2015.109.
    Full-text Article · Apr 2015 · Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
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    Full-text Dataset · Apr 2015
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent studies have suggested an association between alcoholism and DNA methylation, a mechanism that can mediate long-lasting changes in gene transcription. Here, we examined the contribution of DNA methylation to the long-term behavioral and molecular changes induced by a history of alcohol dependence. In search of mechanisms underlying persistent rather than acute dependence-induced neuroadaptations, we studied the role of DNA methylation regulating medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) gene expression and alcohol-related behaviors in rats 3 weeks into abstinence following alcohol dependence. Postdependent rats showed escalated alcohol intake, which was associated with increased DNA methylation as well as decreased expression of genes encoding synaptic proteins involved in neurotransmitter release in the mPFC. Infusion of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor RG108 prevented both escalation of alcohol consumption and dependence-induced downregulation of 4 of the 7 transcripts modified in postdependent rats. Specifically, RG108 treatment directly reversed both downregulation of synaptotagmin 2 (Syt2) gene expression and hypermethylation on CpG#5 of its first exon. Lentiviral inhibition of Syt2 expression in the mPFC increased aversion-resistant alcohol drinking, supporting a mechanistic role of Syt2 in compulsive-like behavior. Our findings identified a functional role of DNA methylation in alcohol dependence-like behavioral phenotypes and a candidate gene network that may mediate its effects. Together, these data provide novel evidence for DNA methyltransferases as potential therapeutic targets in alcoholism. Copyright © 2015 the authors 0270-6474/15/356153-12$15.00/0.
    Full-text Article · Apr 2015 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Escalation of voluntary alcohol consumption is a hallmark of alcoholism, but its neural substrates remain unknown. In rats, escalation occurs following prolonged exposure to cycles of alcohol intoxication, and is associated with persistent, wide-ranging changes in gene expression within the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Here, we examined whether induction of microRNA (miR) 206 in mPFC contributes to escalated alcohol consumption. Following up on a microarray screen, quantitative real-time reverse transcription PCR (qPCR) confirmed that a history of dependence results in persistent (>3weeks) up-regulation of miR-206 expression in the mPFC, but not in the ventral tegmental area, amygdala, or nucleus accumbens. Viral-mediated overexpression of miR-206 in the mPFC of nondependent rats reproduced the escalation of alcohol self-administration seen following a history of dependence and significantly inhibited BDNF expression. Bioinformatic analysis identified three conserved target sites for miR-206 in the 3'-UTR of the rat BDNF transcript. Accordingly, BDNF was downregulated in post-dependent rats on microarray analysis, and this was confirmed by qPCR. In vitro, BDNF expression was repressed by miR-206 but not miR-9 in a 3'-UTR reporter assay, confirming BDNF as a functional target of miR-206. Mutation analysis showed that repression was dependent on the presence of all three miR-206 target sites in the BDNF 3'-UTR. Inhibition of miR-206 expression in differentiated rat cortical primary neurons significantly increased secreted levels of BDNF. In conclusion, recruitment of miR-206 in the mPFC contributes to escalated alcohol consumption following a history of dependence, with BDNF as a possible mediator of its action.
    Article · Mar 2014 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurokinin-1 receptors (NK1R) have been shown to mediate alcohol and opiate, but not cocaine reward in rodents. We recently reported that NK1R antagonism also blocks stress-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking in rats, but it is presently unknown whether these anti-relapse properties extend to other drug classes. Although some work has suggested that intracranial substance P (SP) infusion reinstates cocaine seeking following extinction, no studies have indicated a direct role for the NK1R in reinstatement of cocaine seeking. Here, we explored the effect of the NK1R antagonist L822429 on yohimbine-induced reinstatement of alcohol or cocaine seeking in Long-Evans rats. Consistent with our previous findings with footshock-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking in Wistar rats, we found that L822429 attenuates yohimbine-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking, but does not affect baseline alcohol self-administration. We observed a similar suppression of yohimbine-induced reinstatement of cocaine seeking by L822429, and found that Long-Evans rats exhibit greater sensitivity to NK1R antagonism than Wistar rats. Accordingly, Long-Evans rats exhibit differences in the expression of NK1Rs in some subcortical brain regions. Combined, our findings suggest that while NK1R antagonism differentially influences alcohol- and cocaine-related behavior, this receptor mediates stress-induced seeking of both drugs.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 31 October 2013; doi:10.1038/npp.2013.309.
    Article · Oct 2013 · Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Genetic deletion or antagonism of the neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R) decreases alcohol intake, alcohol reward, and stress-induced alcohol relapse in rodents, while TACR1 variation is associated with alcoholism in humans. Methods: We used L822429, a specific antagonist with high affinity for the rat NK1R, and examined whether sensitivity to NK1R blockade is altered in alcohol-preferring (P) rats. Operant alcohol self-administration and progressive ratio responding were analyzed in P-rats and their founder Wistar line. We also analyzed Tacr1 expression and binding and sequenced the Tacr1 promoter from both lines. Results: Systemic L822429 decreased alcohol self-administration in P-rats but did not affect the lower rates of alcohol self-administration in Wistar rats. Tacr1 expression was elevated in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala of P-rats. In central amygdala, elevated Tacr1 expression was accompanied by elevated NK1R binding. Central amygdala (but not prefrontal cortex) infusion of L822429 replicated the systemic antagonist effects on alcohol self-administration in P-rats. All P-rats, but only 18% of their founder Wistar population, were CC homozygous for a-1372G/C single nucleotide polymorphism. In silico analysis indicated that the Tacr1-1372 genotype could modulate binding of the transcription factors GATA-2 and E2F-1. Electromobility shift and luciferase reporter assays suggested that the-1372C allele confers increased transcription factor binding and transcription. Conclusions: Genetic variation at the Tacr1 locus may contribute to elevated rates of alcohol self-administration, while at the same time increasing sensitivity to NK1R antagonist treatment.
    Article · Feb 2013 · Biological psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Brain cannabinoid CB(1) receptors contribute to alcohol-related behaviors in experimental animals, but their potential role in humans with alcohol dependence is poorly understood. We measured CB(1) receptors in alcohol dependent patients in early and protracted abstinence, and in comparison with control subjects without alcohol use disorders, using positron emission tomography and [(18)F]FMPEP-d(2), a radioligand for CB(1) receptors. We scanned 18 male in-patients with alcohol dependence twice, within 3-7 days of admission from ongoing drinking, and after 2-4 weeks of supervised abstinence. Imaging data were compared with those from 19 age-matched healthy male control subjects. Data were also analyzed for potential influence of a common functional variation (rs2023239) in the CB(1) receptor gene (CNR1) that may moderate CB(1) receptor density. On the first scan, CB(1) receptor binding was 20-30% lower in patients with alcohol dependence than in control subjects in all brain regions and was negatively correlated with years of alcohol abuse. After 2-4 weeks of abstinence, CB(1) receptor binding remained similarly reduced in these patients. Irrespective of the diagnostic status, C allele carriers at rs2023239 had higher CB(1) receptor binding compared with non-carriers. Alcohol dependence is associated with a widespread reduction of cannabinoid CB(1) receptor binding in the human brain and this reduction persists at least 2-4 weeks into abstinence. The correlation of reduced binding with years of alcohol abuse suggests an involvement of CB(1) receptors in alcohol dependence in humans.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 10 July 2012; doi:10.1038/mp.2012.100.
    Full-text Article · Jul 2012 · Molecular Psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Excessive alcohol use, a major cause of morbidity and mortality, is less well understood than other addictive disorders. Dopamine release in ventral striatum is a common element of drug reward, but alcohol has an unusually complex pharmacology, and humans vary greatly in their alcohol responses. This variation is related to genetic susceptibility for alcoholism, which contributes more than half of alcoholism risk. Here, we report that a functional OPRM1 A118G polymorphism is a major determinant of striatal dopamine responses to alcohol. Social drinkers recruited based on OPRM1 genotype were challenged in separate sessions with alcohol and placebo under pharmacokinetically controlled conditions, and examined for striatal dopamine release using positron emission tomography and [(11)C]-raclopride displacement. A striatal dopamine response to alcohol was restricted to carriers of the minor 118G allele. To directly establish the causal role of OPRM1 A118G variation, we generated two humanized mouse lines, carrying the respective human sequence variant. Brain microdialysis showed a fourfold greater peak dopamine response to an alcohol challenge in h/mOPRM1-118GG than in h/mOPRM1-118AA mice. OPRM1 A118G variation is a genetic determinant of dopamine responses to alcohol, a mechanism by which it likely modulates alcohol reward.
    Full-text Article · Aug 2011 · Molecular Psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Variation in the μ-opioid receptor gene has been associated with early social behavior in mice and rhesus macaques. The current study tested whether the functional OPRM1 A118G predicted various indices of social relations in children. The sample included 226 subjects of self-reported European ancestry (44% female; mean age 13.6, SD=2.2) who were part of a larger representative study of children aged 9-17 years in rural North Carolina. Multiple aspects of recent (past 3 months) parent-child relationship were assessed using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. Parent problems were coded based upon a lifetime history of mental health problems, substance abuse, or criminality. Child genotype interacted with parent behavior such that there were no genotype differences for those with low levels of parent problems; however, when a history of parent problems was reported, the G allele carriers had more enjoyment of parent-child interactions (mean ratio (MR)=3.5, 95% CI=1.6, 8.0) and fewer arguments (MR=3.1, 95% CI=1.1, 8.9). These findings suggest a role for the OPRM1 gene in the genetic architecture of social relations in humans. In summary, a variant in the μ-opioid receptor gene (118G) was associated with improved parent-child relations, but only in the context of a significant disruption in parental functioning.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2011 · Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Studies in humans and animals suggest a role for NPY in the mediation of behavioral stress responses. Here, we examined whether the NPY promoter variant rs16147:T>C is functional for expression of NPY in a brain region relevant for behavioral control, anxiety and depression, the anterior cingulate cortex. In silico analysis of DNA structural profile changes produced by rs16147 variation suggests allelic differences in protein binding at the rs16147 site. This was confirmed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, demonstrating that the rs16147 C-allele has strongly reduced affinity for a yet unknown factor compared to the T-allele. Analyzing 107 human post-mortem brain samples we show that allelic variation at rs16147 contributes to regulation of NPY mRNA and peptide levels in this region. Specifically, the C-allele leads to increased gene expression. In agreement with the molecular findings, rs16147:T>C is associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms in 314 young adults via a gene x environment interaction with early childhood adversity, replicating the recent finding of rs16147-C as a risk factor for stress related psychopathology. Our results show the importance of rs16147:T>C for regulation of NPY gene expression and brain function.
    Full-text Article · Aug 2010 · Human Mutation
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    Full-text Dataset · Apr 2010
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    Karl Björk · Anton Terasmaa · Hui Sun · [...] · Markus Heilig
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The reinforcing properties of ethanol are in part attributed to interactions between opioid and dopaminergic signaling pathways, but intracellular mediators of such interactions are poorly understood. Here we report that an acute ethanol challenge induces a robust phosphorylation of two key signal transduction kinases, AKT and DARPP-32, in the striatum of mice. Ethanol-induced AKT phosphorylation was blocked by the opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone but unaffected by blockade of dopamine D2 receptors via sulpiride. In contrast, DARPP-32 phosphorylation was abolished by both antagonists. These data suggest that ethanol acts via two distinct but potentially synergistic striatal signaling cascades. One of these is D2-dependent, while the other is not. These findings illustrate that pharmacology of ethanol reward is likely more complex than that for other addictive drugs.
    Full-text Article · Apr 2010 · Addiction Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuropeptide Y (NPY) counters stress and is involved in neuroadaptations that drive escalated alcohol drinking in rodents. In humans, low NPY expression predicts amygdala response and emotional reactivity. Genetic variation that affects the NPY system could moderate stress resilience and susceptibility to alcohol dependence. To determine whether functional NPY variation influences behavioral adaptation to stress and alcohol consumption in a nonhuman primate model of early adversity (peer rearing). We sequenced the rhesus macaque NPY locus (rhNPY) and performed in silico analysis to identify functional variants. We performed gel shift assays using nuclear extract from testes, brain, and hypothalamus. Levels of NPY in cerebrospinal fluid were measured by radioimmunoassay, and messenger RNA levels were assessed in the amygdala using real-time polymerase chain reaction. Animals were exposed to repeated social separation stress and tested for individual differences in alcohol consumption. Animals were genotyped for -1002 T > G, and the data were analyzed using analysis of variance. National Institutes of Health Animal Center. Subjects Ninety-six rhesus macaques. Main Outcome Measure Behavior arousal during social separation stress and ethanol consumption. The G allele altered binding of regulatory proteins in all nuclear extracts tested, and -1002 T > G resulted in lower levels of NPY expression in the amygdala. Macaques exposed to adversity had lower cerebrospinal fluid NPY levels and exhibited higher levels of arousal during stress, but only as a function of the G allele. We also found that stress-exposed G allele carriers consumed more alcohol and exhibited an escalation in intake over cycles of alcohol availability and deprivation. Our results suggest a role for NPY promoter variation in the susceptibility to alcohol use disorders and point to NPY as a candidate for examining gene x environment interactions in humans.
    Full-text Article · Apr 2010 · Archives of general psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), encoded by the CRH gene, is a key integrator of stress responses, and, as such, CRH gene variation may contribute to individual differences in susceptibility to stress-related pathology. In rhesus macaques, a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is found within the CRH promoter (-248C--> T). Here, we assessed whether this variant influenced stress responding and, because increased CRF system activity drives alcohol drinking in rodents, we examined whether it predicted voluntary alcohol consumption as a function of prior stress exposure. Using a hypothalamic nuclear extract, we showed that the -248 T allele resulted in increased DNA protein interactions relative to the C allele. In vitro, the T allele resulted in CRH promoter activity that was higher following both stimulation with forskolin and treatment with dexamethasone. Endocrine and behavioral responses to social separation stress (release of ACTH and cortisol, and suppression of environmental exploration, respectively) were higher among carriers of the T allele, particularly among those exposed to early adversity in the form of peer rearing. We also found that T allele carriers with a history of early life adversity consumed more alcohol in a limited-access paradigm. Our data suggest that CRH promoter variation that confers increased stress reactivity increases the risk for alcohol use disorders in stress-exposed individuals.
    Full-text Article · Sep 2009 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The role of a nonsynonymous A118G polymorphism of the human micro-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) for alcohol reward and therapeutic efficacy of naltrexone remains controversial. A functionally equivalent OPRM1 C77G polymorphism in rhesus macaques allows this to be addressed under controlled experimental conditions. Twenty-one rhesus macaques (13 female rhesus macaques, 8 male rhesus macaques) were genotyped for OPRM1 C77G and studied during 1-hour sessions for preference between an aspartame-sweetened alcohol solution (8.4% vol/vol) and a nonalcoholic control fluid in a baseline session followed by naltrexone (1 mg/kg) and vehicle treatment in a counterbalanced within-subject design. Mixed-model analysis of variance controlling for baseline and sex showed a highly significant (p = .003) interaction between genotype and treatment. Post hoc analysis showed that vehicle-treated 77G carriers had markedly higher alcohol preference than 77C homozygous subjects (p = .001). Following naltrexone administration, 77G carriers decreased their preference (p = .002) and no longer differed from 77C homozygous subjects. In contrast, the latter group was unaffected by treatment and, in fact, showed a trend-level increase of preference following naltrexone. These results support a critical pharmacogenetic role of OPRM1 variation for therapeutic efficacy of naltrexone.
    Full-text Article · Sep 2009 · Biological psychiatry
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