The Potential Role of Amygdaloid MicroRNA-494 in Alcohol-Induced Anxiolysis

Biol Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 1;80(9):711-719. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.10.028. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Background: The antianxiety effects of ethanol appear to be a crucial factor in promoting alcohol intake. Regulation of gene expression by microRNA (miRNA) is an important epigenetic mechanism that affects neuronal pathways and behaviors. We investigated the role of miRNAs underlying the mechanisms of ethanol-induced anxiolysis.

Methods: Acute ethanol-induced anxiolysis was measured in adult rats, and amygdaloid tissues were used for miRNA profiling by microarray analysis. The expression of miR-494 and its target genes in the amygdala was measured using real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction. The direct role of miR-494 in the anxiety phenotype was also investigated via infusion of a miR-494 antagomir into the central nucleus of amygdala.

Results: Microarray profiling of miRNAs in the amygdala showed significant alteration of several miRNA expression levels by acute ethanol exposure. Expression of miR-494 was significantly decreased, whereas expression of the binding protein of cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element binding protein (CBP), p300, and Cbp/p300-interacting transactivator 2 (Cited2) was increased in the amygdala during ethanol-induced anxiolysis. Inhibition of miR-494 in the central nucleus of amygdala, through infusion of a specific antagomir, provoked anxiolysis, mimicking the action of ethanol. Also, expression of Cited2, CBP, and p300 as well as histone H3-lysine 9 acetylation was significantly increased by miR-494 antagomir infusion, indicating their regulation by miR-494 in the amygdala.

Conclusions: These novel results suggest that acute ethanol-induced reduction in miR-494 expression in the amygdala can serve as a key regulatory mechanism for chromatin remodeling possibly leading to anxiolysis.

Keywords: Alcohol; Amygdala; Anxiety; Anxiolysis; CBP; Cited2; microRNA-494; microRNAs; p300.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Amygdala / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Antagomirs / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • E1A-Associated p300 Protein / metabolism
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / antagonists & inhibitors
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Protein Array Analysis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antagomirs
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • CITED2 protein, rat
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • Histones
  • MIRN494 microRNA, rat
  • Membrane Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • Pag1 protein, rat
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ethanol
  • E1A-Associated p300 Protein
  • Ep300 protein, rat