Potential role of adolescent alcohol exposure-induced amygdaloid histone modifications in anxiety and alcohol intake during adulthood

Neurobiol Dis. 2015 Oct:82:607-619. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2015.03.019. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


Binge drinking is common during adolescence and can lead to the development of psychiatric disorders, including alcoholism in adulthood. Here, the role and persistent effects of histone modifications during adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) exposure in the development of anxiety and alcoholism in adulthood were investigated. Rats received intermittent ethanol exposure during post-natal days 28-41, and anxiety-like behaviors were measured after 1 and 24 h of the last AIE. The effects of AIE on anxiety-like and alcohol-drinking behaviors in adulthood were measured with or without treatment with the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, trichostatin A (TSA). Amygdaloid brain regions were collected to measure HDAC activity, global and gene-specific histone H3 acetylation, expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated (Arc) protein and dendritic spine density (DSD). Adolescent rats displayed anxiety-like behaviors after 24 h, but not 1 h, of last AIE with a concomitant increase in nuclear and cytosolic amygdaloid HDAC activity and HDAC2 and HDAC4 levels leading to deficits in histone (H3-K9) acetylation in the central (CeA) and medial (MeA), but not in basolateral nucleus of amygdala (BLA). Interestingly, some of AIE-induced epigenetic changes such as, increased nuclear HDAC activity, HDAC2 expression, and decreased global histone acetylation persisted in adulthood. In addition, AIE decreased BDNF exons I and IV and Arc promoter specific histone H3 acetylation that was associated with decreased BDNF, Arc expression and DSD in the CeA and MeA during adulthood. AIE also induced anxiety-like behaviors and enhanced ethanol intake in adulthood, which was attenuated by TSA treatment via normalization of deficits in histone H3 acetylation of BDNF and Arc genes. These novel results indicate that AIE induces long-lasting effects on histone modifications and deficits in synaptic events in the amygdala, which are associated with anxiety-like and alcohol drinking behaviors in adulthood.

Keywords: Adolescent binge drinking; Alcohol intake; Amygdala; Anxiety; Epigenetic; HDAC2; Histone acetylation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation / drug effects
  • Alcoholism / metabolism*
  • Alcoholism / pathology
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control
  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / metabolism*
  • Anxiety Disorders / pathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / prevention & control
  • Binge Drinking / metabolism*
  • Binge Drinking / pathology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / toxicity
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanol / toxicity
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Histone Deacetylase 2 / metabolism
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Histones / drug effects*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Hydroxamic Acids / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Underage Drinking


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Hydroxamic Acids
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • activity regulated cytoskeletal-associated protein
  • Ethanol
  • trichostatin A
  • Hdac2 protein, rat
  • Histone Deacetylase 2