Background: Adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure causes long-lasting alterations in brain epigenetic mechanisms. Melanocortin and neuropeptide Y signaling interact and are affected by ethanol exposure in the brain. Here, the persistent effects of adolescent intermittent ethanol on alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, melanocortin 4 receptor, and neuropeptide Y expression and their regulation by histone acetylation mechanisms were investigated in adulthood.
Methods: Male rats were exposed to adolescent intermittent ethanol (2 g/kg, i.p.) or volume-matched adolescent intermittent saline from postnatal days 28 to 41 and allowed to grow to postnatal day 92. Anxiety-like behaviors were measured by the elevated plus-maze test. Brain regions from adult rats were used to examine changes in alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone, melanocortin 4 receptor, and neuropeptide Y expression and the histone acetylation status of their promoters.
Results: Adolescent intermittent ethanol-exposed adult rats displayed anxiety-like behaviors and showed increased pro-opiomelanocortin mRNA levels in the hypothalamus and increased melanocortin 4 receptor mRNA levels in both the amygdala and hypothalamus compared with adolescent intermittent saline-exposed adult rats. The alpha-Melanocyte stimulating hormone and melanocortin 4 receptor protein levels were increased in the central and medial nucleus of the amygdala, paraventricular nucleus, and arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus in adolescent intermittent ethanol-exposed compared with adolescent intermittent saline-exposed adult rats. Neuropeptide Y protein levels were decreased in the central and medial nucleus of the amygdala of adolescent intermittent ethanol-exposed compared with adolescent intermittent saline-exposed adult rats. Histone H3K9/14 acetylation was decreased in the neuropeptide Y promoter in the amygdala but increased in the melanocortin 4 receptor gene promoter in the amygdala and the melanocortin 4 receptor and pro-opiomelanocortin promoters in the hypothalamus of adolescent intermittent ethanol-exposed adult rats compared with controls.
Conclusions: Increased melanocortin and decreased neuropeptide Y activity due to changes in histone acetylation in emotional brain circuitry may play a role in adolescent intermittent ethanol-induced anxiety phenotypes in adulthood.
Keywords: adolescence; alcohol; alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone; histone H3 acetylation; melanocortin 4 receptor; neuropeptide Y.
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CINP 2017. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.