Repeated exposure to moderate doses of ethanol augments hippocampal glutamate neurotransmission by increasing release

Addict Biol. 2011 Apr;16(2):229-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2010.00272.x. Epub 2010 Dec 23.


The present study used conventional and quantitative microdialysis to assess glutamatergic and GABAergic neurotransmission in the hippocampal CA3 area of the rat following a moderate-dose ethanol treatment regimen. Male Wistar rats received 3.4 g/kg of ethanol or water for 6 days via gastric gavage. Microdialysis experiments commenced 2 days later. Basal and depolarization-induced glutamate overflow were significantly elevated in ethanol-treated animals. Basal and depolarization-induced gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) overflow were unaltered. Quantitative no-net-flux microdialysis was used to determine if changes in dialysate glutamate levels following ethanol administration are due to an increase in release or a decrease in uptake. To confirm the validity of this method for quantifying basal glutamate dynamics, extracellular concentrations of glutamate and the extraction fraction, which reflects changes in analyte clearance, were quantified in response to retro-dialysis of the glutamate uptake blocker trans-pyrrolidine-2,4-dicarboxylic acid (tPDC). tPDC significantly decreased the extraction fraction for glutamate, resulting in augmented extracellular glutamate concentrations. Repeated ethanol administration did not alter the glutamate extraction fraction. However, extracellular glutamate concentrations were significantly elevated, indicating that glutamate release is increased as a consequence of repeated ethanol administration. These data demonstrate that repeated bouts of moderate ethanol consumption alter basal glutamate dynamics in the CA3 region of the dorsal hippocampus. Basal glutamate release is augmented, whereas glutamate uptake is unchanged. Furthermore, they suggest that dysregulation of glutamate transmission in this region may contribute to the previously documented deficits in cognitive function associated with moderate dose ethanol use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / drug effects
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / physiopathology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Extracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Ethanol
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid