Effects of chronic alcohol exposure on dopamine uptake in rat nucleus accumbens and caudate putamen

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2007 Sep;193(4):495-501. doi: 10.1007/s00213-007-0812-1. Epub 2007 May 11.


Rationale: Existing data strongly suggest that alcohol affects dopamine (DA) neurotransmission in the brain. However, many questions remain about the effects of alcohol on the delicate equilibrium between such neurochemical processes as DA release and uptake. Dysregulation of these processes in the mesolimbic and nigrostriatal systems after chronic alcohol ingestion could be a neuroadaptation contributing to dependence.

Objectives: In the present study, we have employed an alcohol vapor inhalation model to characterize the effects of chronic alcohol exposure on DA dynamics in rat nucleus accumbens (NAc) and caudate putamen (CP) using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) in brain slices. This method provides a unique view of real-time, spatially resolved changes in DA concentration.

Results: We found that chronic alcohol exposure enhanced DA uptake rates in rat NAc and CP. These changes would have the effect of down-regulating extracellular DA levels, presumably a compensatory effect related to increased DA release by repeated alcohol exposure. The sensitivity of terminal release-regulating DA autoreceptors was not different in alcohol-exposed rats compared with alcohol-naïve animals.

Conclusions: The DA uptake changes after chronic alcohol exposure documented here using FSCV may be associated with a compensatory response of the DA system aimed at decreasing DA signaling. Alterations in autoreceptor function may require relatively long lasting alcohol exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Animals
  • Caudate Nucleus / drug effects
  • Caudate Nucleus / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Down-Regulation
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Putamen / drug effects
  • Putamen / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects
  • Volatilization


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Ethanol
  • Dopamine