We previously observed lasting and sex-specific detrimental consequences of early adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure (AIE), with male, but not female, rats showing social anxiety-like alterations when tested as adults. The present study used Sprague Dawley rats to assess whether social alterations induced by AIE (3.5g/kg, intragastrically, every other day, between postnatal days [P] 25-45) are further exacerbated by stressors later in life. Another aim was to determine whether AIE alone or in combination with stress influenced intake of a sweetened ethanol solution (Experiment 1) or a sweetened solution ("supersac") alone (Experiment 2) under social circumstances. Animals were exposed to restraint on P66-P70 (90min/day) or left nonstressed, with corticosterone (CORT) levels assessed on day 1 and day 5 in Experiment 2. Social anxiety-like behavior emerged after AIE in non-stressed males, but not females, whereas stress-induced social anxiety was evident only in water-exposed males and females. Adult-typical habituation of the CORT response to repeated restraint was not evident in adult animals after AIE, a lack of habituation reminiscent of that normally evident in adolescents. Neither AIE nor stress affected ethanol intake under social circumstances, although AIE and restraint independently increased adolescent-typical play fighting in males during social drinking. Among males, the combination of AIE and restraint suppressed "supersac" intake; this index of depression-like behavior was not seen in females. The results provide experimental evidence associating adolescent alcohol exposure, later stress, anxiety, and depression, with young adolescent males being particularly vulnerable to long-lasting adverse effects of repeated ethanol. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI: Adolescent plasticity.
Keywords: Adolescence; Anhedonia; Anxiety; Ethanol; Sex differences; Social facilitation; Stress.
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