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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Enhanced endocannabinoid-mediated modulation of rostromedial tegmental nucleus drive onto dopamine neurons in Sardinian alcohol-preferring rats.


PMID 25232109

Abstract

The progressive predominance of rewarding effects of addictive drugs over their aversive properties likely contributes to the transition from drug use to drug dependence. By inhibiting the activity of DA neurons in the VTA, GABA projections from the rostromedial tegmental nucleus (RMTg) are well suited to shift the balance between drug-induced reward and aversion. Since cannabinoids suppress RMTg inputs to DA cells and CB1 receptors affect alcohol intake in rodents, we hypothesized that the endocannabinoid system, by modulating this pathway, might contribute to alcohol preference. Here we found that RMTg afferents onto VTA DA neurons express CB1 receptors and display a 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)-dependent form of short-term plasticity, that is, depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition (DSI). Next, we compared rodents with innate opposite alcohol preference, the Sardinian alcohol-preferring (sP) and alcohol-nonpreferring (sNP) rats. We found that DA cells from alcohol-naive sP rats displayed a decreased probability of GABA release and a larger DSI. This difference was due to the rate of 2-AG degradation. In vivo, we found a reduced RMTg-induced inhibition of putative DA neurons in sP rats that negatively correlated with an increased firing. Finally, alcohol failed to enhance RMTg spontaneous activity and to prolong RMTg-induced silencing of putative DA neurons in sP rats. Our results indicate functional modifications of RMTg projections to DA neurons that might impact the reward/aversion balance of alcohol attributes, which may contribute to the innate preference observed in sP rats and to their elevated alcohol intake.