Mifepristone in the central nucleus of the amygdala reduces yohimbine stress-induced reinstatement of ethanol-seeking

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Mar;37(4):906-18. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.268. Epub 2011 Nov 2.


Chronic ethanol exposure leads to dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, leading to changes in glucocorticoid release and function that have been proposed to maintain pathological alcohol consumption and increase vulnerability to relapse during abstinence. The objective of this study was to determine whether mifepristone, a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, plays a role in ethanol self-administration and reinstatement. Male, Long-Evans rats were trained to self-administer either ethanol or sucrose in daily 30 min operant self-administration sessions using a fixed ratio 3 schedule of reinforcement. Following establishment of stable baseline responding, we examined the effects of mifepristone on maintained responding and yohimbine-induced increases in responding for ethanol and sucrose. Lever responding was extinguished in separate groups of rats and animals were tested for yohimbine-induced reinstatement and corticosterone release. We also investigated the effects of local mifepristone infusions into the central amygdala (CeA) on yohimbine-induced reinstatement of ethanol- and sucrose-seeking. In addition, we infused mifepristone into the basolateral amygdala (BLA) in ethanol-seeking animals as an anatomical control. We show that both systemic and intra-CeA (but not BLA) mifepristone administration suppressed yohimbine-induced reinstatement of ethanol-seeking, while only systemic injections attenuated sucrose-seeking. In contrast, baseline consumption, yohimbine-induced increases in responding, and circulating CORT levels were unaffected. The data indicate that the CeA plays an important role in the effects of mifepristone on yohimbine-induced reinstatement of ethanol-seeking. Mifepristone may be a valuable pharmacotherapeutic strategy for preventing relapse to alcohol use disorders and, as it is FDA approved, may be a candidate for clinical trials in the near future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System / drug therapy*
  • Alcohol-Induced Disorders, Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / drug therapy*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Interactions
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mifepristone / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Stress, Physiological / drug effects*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology
  • Yohimbine / adverse effects*


  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Yohimbine
  • Mifepristone