The neurosteroid allopregnanolone (ALLO) is a progesterone metabolite that is one of a family of neuroactive steroids (NAS) that are potent positive allosteric modulators of gamma-aminobutyric acid(A) (GABA(A)) receptors. These GABAergic NAS are produced peripherally (in the adrenals and gonads) and centrally in the brain. Peripherally produced NAS modulate some effects of ethanol intoxication (e.g., anxiolytic, antidepressant, and anticonvulsant effects) in rodents. We have found that NAS also may be involved in the rebound neural hyperexcitability following a high ethanol dose. Removal of the adrenals and gonads (ADX/GDX) increased withdrawal severity following 4 g/kg ethanol, as measured by handling-induced convulsions (HICs) in male and female DBA/2J mice. NAS are produced through the metabolism of progesterone (PROG), deoxycorticosterone (DOC), or testosterone, which can be blocked with the administration of finasteride (FIN), a 5alpha-reductase enzyme inhibitor. The current investigation was undertaken to clarify the step(s) in the biosynthetic NAS pathway that were sufficient to restore the acute ethanol withdrawal profile in ADX/GDX mice to that seen in intact animals. Male and female DBA/2J mice underwent ADX/GDX or SHAM surgery. After recovery, separate groups of animals were administered PROG, DOC, PROG+FIN, DOC+FIN, FIN, ALLO, ganaxalone (a synthetic ALLO derivative), corticosterone, or vehicle. Animals were then administered a 4 g/kg ethanol dose and allowed to undergo withdrawal. HICs were measured for 12 h and again at 24 h. The results indicate that replacement with PROG and DOC restored the withdrawal profile in ADX/GDX animals to SHAM levels, and that this effect was blocked with co-administration of FIN. Administration of FIN alone increased the withdrawal profile in both SHAM and ADX/GDX males. These findings indicate that the increase in acute withdrawal severity after ADX/GDX may be due to the loss of GABAergic NAS, providing insight into the contribution of endogenous GABAergic NAS to ethanol withdrawal severity.
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