Background: Ethanol (EtOH), like other drugs of abuse, increases extracellular dopamine (DA) levels in the nucleus accumbens (nAc) of the brain reward system, an effect that may be of importance for alcohol addiction. How this DA increase is produced is not fully understood, although previous studies from the present laboratories indicate that nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the ventral tegmental area play an important role in mediating this effect. Furthermore, activation of these receptors may be secondary to some priming effect produced by EtOH in the nAc. We recently demonstrated that strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors (GlyRs) are present in the nAc and that they are involved in regulating extracellular DA levels. Here we examine the tentative role of these accumbal GlyRs in the above-mentioned priming mechanism of EtOH.
Method: In vivo microdialysis (coupled to high pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection) and reversed microdialysis, in awake, freely moving adult male Wistar rats.
Results: Local perfusion of strychnine decreased accumbal DA levels per se and completely prevented the increase of accumbal DA levels after both local and systemic EtOH administration. Accumbal perfusion of the GlyR agonist glycine instead increased DA levels in a subpopulation of rats and prevented the EtOH-induced increase after local but not systemic EtOH in all animals.
Conclusion: The present results suggest that GlyRs in the nAc might constitute targets for EtOH in its mesolimbic DA-activating effect. Gene polymorphism and drug developmental studies that focus on this receptor population and its relation to alcohol dependence are warranted.