The neurosteroid allopregnanolone (ALLO) is a potent positive modulator of gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) (GABA(A)) receptors. Earlier work indicates that sensitivity to the anticonvulsant effect of ALLO was enhanced during ethanol (EtOH) withdrawal in rats and in C57BL/6 mice, an inbred strain with mild EtOH withdrawal. In contrast, ALLO sensitivity was reduced during EtOH withdrawal in DBA/2 mice, an inbred strain with severe EtOH withdrawal. Thus, the present studies examined ALLO sensitivity during EtOH withdrawal in another animal model of EtOH withdrawal severity, the Withdrawal Seizure-Prone (WSP) and Withdrawal Seizure-Resistant (WSR) selected lines. Male mice were exposed to EtOH vapor or air for 72 h. During peak withdrawal, animals were injected with ALLO [0, 3.2, 5, 10 or 17 mg/kg, intraperitoneally (i.p.)] and tested for their sensitivity to the anticonvulsant effect. In separate studies, potentiation of GABA-stimulated chloride uptake by ALLO (10 nm to 10 microm) was assessed in microsacs prepared from mouse brain mice during peak withdrawal. Notably, WSP mice were cross-tolerant to the anticonvulsant effect of ALLO during EtOH withdrawal (i.e. significant decrease in the efficacy of ALLO) when compared with values in air-exposed mice. In contrast, sensitivity to the anticonvulsant effect of ALLO was unchanged during EtOH withdrawal in the WSR line. Functional sensitivity of GABA(A) receptors to ALLO was significantly decreased during EtOH withdrawal in WSP mice in a manner consistent with the change in behavioral sensitivity to ALLO. These findings suggest that mice selectively bred for differences in EtOH withdrawal severity are differentially sensitive to ALLO during EtOH withdrawal.