Chronic ethanol exposure induces impairments in CNS excitatory and inhibitory activity. These impairments are associated with glutamatergic dysfunction, including altered neuroplasticity. This study examined the effects of 6-week ethanol (15% and 30% v/v) consumption, by male alcohol-preferring P rats, on protein expression associated with neuroplasticity and glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1) function. The latter regulates intra- and extra-synaptic glutamate levels. We focused on the shell and core subregions of the nucleus accumbens (Acb); i.e., shell (AcbSh) and core (AcbCo), for these measures. Chronic ethanol exposure increased the expression of BDNF, Arc and phosphorylated (p)-post-synaptic density protein-95 (p-PSD-95) in the AcbSh of P rats. Moreover, the ratio of phospho-neuronal nitric oxide synthase (p-nNOS) to total nNOS was also increased in the AcbSh. These changes in BDNF, Arc and p-nNOS/nNOS ratio were not observed in the AcbCo. Furthermore, chronic ethanol consumption reduced GLT-1 expression in the AcbSh. Alternatively, treatment with ceftriaxone (CEF), a known GLT-1 upregulator, abolished the effect of chronic ethanol consumption on BDNF expression in the AcbSh. Overall, the present findings confirm that chronic ethanol consumption modulates activity-associated synaptic proteins, including BDNF, Arc and nNOS in a subregion-specific (i.e., in the AcbSh but not AcbCo) manner. Thus, alterations in mesocorticolimbic glutamatergic homeostasis and neuroplasticity are possible functional targets for the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
Keywords: Arc; BDNF; Ethanol dependence; GLT-1; glutamate; nNOS; nucleus accumbens.
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