N-acetylcysteine Prevents Alcohol Related Neuroinflammation in Rats

Neurochem Res. 2017 Aug;42(8):2135-2141. doi: 10.1007/s11064-017-2218-8. Epub 2017 Mar 16.


Alcoholism has been characterized as a systemic pro-inflammatory condition and alcohol withdrawal has been linked to various changes in the brain homeostasis, including oxidative stress and glutamate hyperactivity. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant multi-target drug with promising results in psychiatry, including drug addiction. We assessed the effects of NAC on the serum and brain inflammatory cytokines after cessation of chronic alcohol treatment in rats. Male Wistar rats received 2 g/kg alcohol or vehicle twice a day by oral gavage for 30 days. Rats were treated, from day 31 to 34, with NAC (60 or 90 mg/kg) or saline, intraperitoneally, once daily. Rats were sacrificed at day 35, trunk blood was collected and the frontal cortex and hippocampus dissected for assessment of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-18, IL-10. NAC prevented the increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the decrease of anti-inflammatory cytokine in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. No changes were observed on serum cytokines. We conclude that NAC protects against inflammation induced by chronic (30 days) alcohol ingestion followed by 5 days cessation in two rat brain areas. Because inflammation has been documented and associated with craving and relapse in alcoholics, the data revealed by this study points to the validity of NAC clinical evaluation in the context of alcohol detoxification and withdrawal.

Keywords: Cytokines; Drug abuse; Ethanol; Frontal cortex; Hippocampus; NAC.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Alcohol Drinking / drug therapy
  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation Mediators / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Ethanol
  • Acetylcysteine