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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Increased consumption of ethanol and sugar water in mice lacking the dopamine D2 long receptor

Individual differences in dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) expression in the brain are thought to influence motivation and reinforcement for ethanol and other rewards. D2R exists in two isoforms, D2 long (D2LR) and D2 short (D2SR), produced by alternative splicing of the same gene. The relative contributions of D2LR versus D2SR to ethanol and sugar water drinking are not known.

Genetic engineering was used to produce a line of knockout (KO) mice that lack D2LR and consequently have increased expression of D2SR. KO and wild-type (WT) mice of both sexes were tested for intake of 20% ethanol, 10% sugar water and plain tap water using established drinking-in-the-dark procedures. Mice were also tested for effects of the D2 antagonist eticlopride on intake of ethanol to determine whether KO responses were caused by lack of D2LR or overrepresentation of D2SR. Locomotor activity on running wheels and in cages without wheels was also measured for comparison.

D2L KO mice drank significantly more ethanol than WT in both sexes. KO mice drank more sugar water than WT in females but not in males. Eticlopride dose dependently decreased ethanol intake in all groups except male KO. KO mice were less physically active than WT in cages with or without running wheels.

Results suggest that overrepresentation of D2SR contributes to increased intake of ethanol in the KO mice. Decreasing wheel running and general levels of physical activity in the KO mice rules out the possibility that higher intake results from higher motor activity. Results extend the literature implicating altered expression of D2R in risk for addiction by delineating the contribution of individual D2R isoforms.

These findings suggest that D2LR and D2SR play differential roles in consumption of alcohol and sugar rewards.

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