Glutamate NMDA receptors mediate many molecular and behavioral effects of alcohol, and they play a key role in the development of excessive drinking. Uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonists may, therefore, have therapeutic potential for alcoholism. The first aim was to compare the effects of the NMDA antagonists memantine and ketamine on ethanol and saccharin drinking in alcohol-preferring rats. The second aim was to determine whether the effects of the two NMDA receptor antagonists were mediated by the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). TSRI Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats were allowed to self-administer either 10% w/v ethanol or 0.08% w/v saccharin, and water. Operant responding and motor activity were assessed following administration of either memantine (0-10mg/kg) or ketamine (0-20mg/kg). Finally, ethanol self-administration was assessed in rats administered with either memantine or ketamine but pretreated with the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin (2.5mg/kg). The uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonists memantine and ketamine dose-dependently reduced ethanol drinking in alcohol-preferring rats; while memantine had a preferential effect on alcohol over saccharin, ketamine reduced responding for both solutions. Neither antagonist induced malaise, as shown by the lack of effect on water intake and motor activity. The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin blocked the effects of ketamine, but not those of memantine. Memantine and ketamine both reduce alcohol drinking in alcohol-preferring rats, but only memantine is selective for alcohol. The effects of ketamine, but not memantine, are mediated by mTOR. The results support the therapeutic potential of uncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonists, especially memantine, in alcohol addiction.
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