Effect of gender and estrous cycle on the pharmacokinetics of ethanol in the rat brain

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2002 Feb;26(2):165-72.


Background: Aspects of ethanol pharmacokinetics in the blood, such as elimination, are known to vary by gender in the rat. Ethanol concentrations reaching the brain, which are relevant in affecting behavior, have not been measured rigorously by gender. This study used quantitative microdialysis to measure ethanol pharmacokinetics in the nucleus accumbens after a moderate dose of ethanol, comparing males with females and females across the estrous cycle.

Methods: We administered 1 g/kg ethanol intravenously or intragastrically to male and female rats. We measured ethanol concentrations in the nucleus accumbens by use of microdialysis with in vivo probe calibration and compared them with concentrations in jugular venous blood.

Results: After intravenous delivery, apparent ethanol elimination was approximately 15% faster in females than males from both brain and blood. After intragastric delivery, blood ethanol concentrations peaked faster in females than males by approximately 20 min, suggesting faster absorption or diffusion from the stomach. Likewise, accumbal ethanol concentrations peaked faster in females than males by approximately 25 min, indicating faster distribution to the brain. These pharmacokinetic parameters did not vary across the estrous cycle, nor were they influenced significantly by body water.

Conclusions: This study provides the first quantitative measurement of ethanol concentrations and, thus, pharmacokinetics in the brain of awake rats. If ethanol distribution to the brain varies between genders, as these results suggest, then differences in the pharmacological response to ethanol can be expected, providing a rationale for studying the pharmacodynamics of ethanol in the brain of the self-administering rat.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Estrous Cycle*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Stomach / drug effects


  • Ethanol