The role of kappa-opioid receptors (KOR) in the regulation of alcohol-related behaviors is not completely understood. For example, alcohol consumption has been reported to increase following treatment with KOR antagonists in rats, but was decreased in mice with genetic deletion of KOR. Recent studies have further suggested that KOR antagonists may selectively decrease alcohol self-administration in rats following a history of dependence.
We assessed the effects of the KOR antagonist JDTic on alcohol self-administration, reinstatement of alcohol seeking induced by alcohol-associated cues or stress, and acute alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety (‘hangover anxiety’).
JDTic dose-dependently reversed hangover anxiety when given 48 hours prior to testing, a time interval corresponding to the previously demonstrated anxiolytic efficacy of this drug. In contrast, JDTic decreased alcohol self-administration and cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking when administered 2 hours prior to testing, but not at longer pre-treatment times. For comparison, we determined that the prototypical KOR antagonist nor-binaltorphimine can suppress self-administration of alcohol at 2 hours pre-treatment time, mimicking our observations with JDTic.
The effects of JDTic were behaviorally specific, as it had no effect on stress-induced reinstatement of alcohol seeking, self-administration of sucrose, or locomotor activity. Further, we demonstrate that at a 2 hours pre-treatment time JDTic antagonized the antinociceptive effects of the KOR agonist U50,488H but had no effect on morphine-induced behaviors.
Our results provide additional evidence for the involvement of KOR in regulation of alcohol-related behaviors and provide support for KOR antagonists, including JDTic, to be evaluated as medications for alcoholism.
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