Background: Korean Red Ginseng (KRG) is known to have antianxiety properties. This study was conducted to investigate the anxiolytic effects of KRG extract (KRGE) during ethanol withdrawal (EW) and the involvement of the mesoamygdaloid dopamine (DA) system in it.
Methods: Rats were treated with 3 g/kg/d of ethanol for 28 d, and subjected to 3 d of withdrawal. During EW, KRGE (20 mg/kg/d or 60 mg/kg/d, p.o.) was given to rats once/d for 3 d. Thirty min after the final dose of KRGE, anxiety-like behavior was evaluated in an elevated plus maze (EPM), and plasma corticosterone (CORT) levels were determined by a radioimmunoassay (RIA). In addition, concentrations of DA and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) were also measured by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).
Results: The EPM test and RIA revealed KRGE inhibited anxiety-like behavior and the over secretion of plasma CORT during EW. Furthermore, the behavioral effect was blocked by a selective DA D2 receptor (D2R) antagonist (eticlopride) but not by a selective DA D1 receptor (D1R) antagonist (SCH23390). HPLC analyses showed KRGE reversed EW-induced decreases of DA and DOPAC in a dose-dependent way. Additionally, Western blotting and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays showed that KRGE prevented the EW-induced reductions in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) protein expression in the CeA and TH mRNA expression in the ventral tegmental area (VTA).
Conclusion: These results suggest that KRGE has anxiolytic effects during EW by improving the mesoamygdaloid DA system.
Keywords: Panax ginseng; amygdala; anxiety; dopamine; ethanol withdrawal.