Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research

Ethanol attenuation of long-term depression in the nucleus accumbens can be overcome by activation of TRPV1 receptors.

PMID 25421513


Altered expression of synaptic plasticity within the nucleus accumbens (NAc) constitutes a critical neuroadaptive response to ethanol (EtOH) and other drugs of abuse. We have previously reported that N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent long-term depression (LTD) is markedly affected by chronic intermittent ethanol exposure in vivo; however, endocannabinoid (eCB)-dependent synaptic depression, despite being very well-documented in the dorsal striatum, is much less well understood in the NAc. Whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology was used to investigate interactions between these different plasticity-induction systems. Excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) were measured in the NAc shell and NMDAR-LTD was induced by a pairing protocol (500 stimuli at 1xa0Hz stimulation [low-frequency stimulation (LFS)] paired with postsynaptic depolarization to -50xa0mV). AM251, a CB1 receptor antagonist, was used to determine whether this form of LTD is modulated by eCBs. To determine the effect of EtOH on a purely eCB-dependent response in the NAc, depolarization-induced suppression of excitation (DSE) was used in the presence of 40xa0mM EtOH. Finally, we determined whether the enhancement of eCB signaling with URB597, a fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor, and AM404, an anandamide re-uptake inhibitor would also modulate LFS LTD in the presence of NMDAR blockade or EtOH. In the presence of AM251, the LFS pairing protocol resulted in NMDAR-dependent long-term potentiation that was blocked with either EtOH or DL-APV. We also found that DSE in the NAc shell was blocked by AM251 and suppressed by EtOH. Enhanced eCB signaling rescued NAc-LTD expression in the presence of EtOH through a distinct mechanism requiring activation of TRPV1 receptors. EtOH modulation of synaptic plasticity in the NAc is dependent upon a complex interplay between NMDARs, eCBs, and TRPV1 receptors. These findings demonstrate a novel form of TRPV1-dependent LTD in the NAc shell that may be critical for EtOH dependence.