Ovariectomy has minimal effects on neuroadaptations associated with ethanol dependence in female rats

Neurochem Int. Nov-Dec 2000;37(5-6):433-42. doi: 10.1016/s0197-0186(00)00052-8.


We previously found gender selective alterations in gene expression for GABA(A) and NMDA receptors associated with the development of ethanol dependence. Males and females have a differing hormonal environment, including steroid hormone derivatives (neuroactive steroids) that exert effects at GABA(A) and NMDA receptors. Therefore, we explored whether the removal of ovarian steroids would alter gender differences in response to chronic ethanol exposure. We found that ovariectomy reduced ethanol drinking levels by 15%, comparable to earlier observations between intact female and male rats. However, investigation of the effects of chronic ethanol exposure on intact versus ovariectomized female rats uncovered few differences in chronic ethanol-induced alterations in selected GABA(A) or NMDA receptor subunit peptide levels. In general, findings for both groups of females were similar to previous observations. There was no reduction in GABA(A) receptor alpha1 subunit levels in cerebral cortex in either intact or ovariectomized female rats, in contrast to the significant reduction observed in male rats. In addition, both intact and ovariectomized female rats had increased levels of the NMDA NR1 subunit in cerebral cortex and hypothalamus, but not in hippocampus, whereas ethanol dependent male rats displayed significant increases in the NR1 subunit only in hippocampus. Radioligand binding analysis with [35S]TBPS found no differences in modulation of the GABA(A) receptor by neuroactive steroids between ethanol dependent male, intact female or ovariectomized female rats. Seizure susceptibility was not different between intact or ovariectomized female rats during ethanol withdrawal. We did observe differential effects on brain allopregnanolone and plasma corticosterone levels between ethanol dependent intact and ovariectomized female rats, suggesting that ovarian steroids influence HPA axis adaptations to prolonged ethanol exposure. Overall, these data suggest that ovarian steroids do not significantly impact the gender selective alterations of GABA(A) and NMDA receptors associated with ethanol dependence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / blood
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Ovariectomy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Ethanol
  • Corticosterone