Sex-dependent differences in ethanol inhibition of mouse lateral orbitofrontal cortex neurons

Addict Biol. 2020 Jan;25(1):e12698. doi: 10.1111/adb.12698. Epub 2018 Nov 23.


Biological differences between males and females likely influence responses to alcohol and the propensity to engage in excessive drinking. In both humans and rodents, females escalate alcohol use and develop addiction-like behaviors faster than males, while males exhibit more severe withdrawal symptoms during abstinence. The mechanisms underlying these differences are not yet known but may reflect fundamental differences in the ethanol sensitivity of neurons in reward and control areas of the brain. To address this question, we recorded current-evoked spiking of lateral orbitofrontal cortex (lOFC) neurons in male and female C57BL/6J mice following acute and chronic exposure to ethanol. Ethanol (11-66 mM) reduced firing of lOFC neurons but produced less inhibition in neurons from female mice. As previously reported for male mice, the glycine receptor blocker strychnine blocked ethanol inhibition of spiking of lOFC neurons from female mice and prevented the ethanol-induced increase in tonic current. Following chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) exposure, current-evoked spiking of lOFC neurons was significantly enhanced with a greater effect observed in males. After CIE treatment, acute ethanol had no effect on spiking in neurons from male mice, while it produced a slight but significant decrease in firing in females. Finally, like male mice, the inhibitory effect of the glycine transport inhibitor sarcosine was blunted in CIE-exposed female mice. Together, these results suggest that while lOFC neurons in male and female mice are similarly affected by ethanol, there are significant differences in sensitivity that may contribute to differences in alcohol actions between males and females.

Keywords: chronic intermittent ethanol exposure; electrophysiology; intrinsic excitability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Sex Factors
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol