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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Effect of opioid receptor blockade on acetaldehyde self-administration and ERK phosphorylation in the rat nucleus accumbens

We have previously shown that acetaldehyde (ACD), the first metabolite of ethanol, regulates its motivational properties and possesses reinforcing effects by itself. A large and still growing body of evidence indicates that the endogenous opioidergic system plays a critical role in the motivational effects of ethanol and suggests a role for extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in these effects of both ethanol and ACD.

The present study was undertaken to examine if opioid-mediated mechanisms are involved in the reinforcing properties of ACD and in ACD-elicited ERK activation.

To this end, Wistar rats were trained to orally self-administer ACD (0.2%) by nose poking. Responses on active nose poke caused delivery of ACD solution, whereas responses on inactive nose poke had no consequences. The effect of pretreatment with a nonselective opioid receptor antagonist, naltrexone (NTX), was evaluated during (1) maintenance of ACD self-administration, (2) deprivation effect after ACD extinction, and (3) ACD self-administration under a progressive-ratio schedule of reinforcement. Additionally, we tested the effect of NTX on saccharin (0.05%) reinforcement, as assessed by oral self-administration, and on ACD-elicited ERK phosphorylation in the nucleus accumbens (Acb), as assessed by immunohistochemistry. Finally, we examined the effect of a μ
1-selective opioid receptor antagonist, naloxonazine (NLZ), on the maintenance phase of ACD and saccharin self-administration. T

The results indicate that NTX (0.4–0.8
mg/kg) reduced the maintenance, the deprivation effect, and the break points of ACD self-administration without suppressing saccharin self-administration. Moreover, NTX decreased ACD-elicited ERK activation in the Acb shell and core. NLZ (10–15mg/kg) reduced the maintenance phase of ACD self-administration without interfering with saccharin self-administration, whereas both NTX and NLZ failed to modify responses on inactive nose poke indicating the lack of a nonspecific behavioral activation.

Overall, these results indicate that the opioid system is implicated in the reinforcing properties of ACD and suggest an involvement of ERK.

The finding that NTX and NLZ reduce ACD but not saccharin self-administration indicates that these effects are specific to ACD.

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