Background: The gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABARs) are involved in mediating some of the behavioral effects of beverage alcohol (ethanol). However, the unique pharmacological and behavioral responses conferred by each of the various receptor subunits are not well understood.
Methods: To address the role of the GABAR delta subunit in mediating ethanol responses, gene knockout mice that lack this subunit were tested for a variety of ethanol-induced behavioral responses.
Results: Our results indicate that, compared with controls, delta-deficient mice (delta-/-) have (1) reduced ethanol consumption, (2) attenuated withdrawal from chronic ethanol exposure, and (3) reduced anticonvulsant (seizure-protective) effects of ethanol. These mice demonstrate a normal anxiolytic response to ethanol and a normal hypothermic response to ethanol, and they develop both chronic and acute tolerance.
Conclusions: These results further establish the link between GABARs and specific behavioral responses to ethanol and begin to reveal the role of the delta subunit in these responses.